Avoid flights to [some of] Europe on May Day
Well, we've done it twice now ... will I never learn? Try to avoid flights to Greece or Italy (at least) on May 1 (their Labour Day I think). Likely that trains and buses on strike, so you have to pay rip-off fee for taxi from airport to town. Probably just some parts of Europe are a problem - Greece and Italy were for us.
Unique Suggestions: Be prepared for alternative transport means.
Fun Alternatives: Start a day before or a day after!Related to:
- Budget Travel
Beware of European "Railexperts" from Overseas
Beware of "Railexperts" based outside of Europe who try to sell you expensive rail packages and expesive point-to-point railway tickets. As an extreme sample I did choose a (still over-priced) Turkish Kapikule-Pythion ticket. The distance is 99 km by rail via Uzunköprü and the traveller can buy a ticket for about a Dollar locally. Even in an other European country - Czech Republic - such ticket is overpriced and sold for international fare of 5.8 Euro.
If we would rely on a US-based "European Railway Specialist" to travel between Kapikule and Pythion we would pay $82(!!!) and they suggest the traveller an almost 1000 km route, via Plovdiv, Sofia, Kulata, Strimon and Alexandroupolis rather than via Uzunköprü.
Buyer Beware: inform yourself about local prices, ask your VT peers first. Every European, Asian, Middle Eastern railway deal sold outside of Europe, Asia or Middle East is a tourist trap alert. As rule of thumb, even in Europe never buy an international ticket in a third country unless you know all fare details. An internationl ticket between Prague and Krakow bought in Vienna is most likely a tourist trap because the local discounts do no apply. Any ticket sold with non-European (or non-Asian) currency domination is overpriced at best and a tourist trap at worst.
Take a look at this: http://img267.imageshack.us/img267/6642/touristtrapel9.png
Unique Suggestions: If you are unlucky and hold such overpriced ticket in most cases you can recover 85% of the costs, sometimes full price. DO NOT USE that ticket, not even partially. In any European, Asian (VietNam, China, Mongolia, NKorea, CIS) or Middle Eastern country ask either your guide/interpreter or a well-inforned local to escort you to the manager of the railway station or to the manager of the International ticket counter and invalidate the entire ticket you bought overseas. The invalidation stamps are recognized between the railways - but you have to invalidate the ticket BEFORE it was used.
After the ticket was properly invalidated (preferably in the country where it starts) you can return it in most cases with a minimal or no loss.
Fun Alternatives: Buy tickets locally. There are many great deals available - even in countries you would imagine are "deal-free", like North Korea. Ask VT members, research. Countries like Russia, Hungary, Slovakia, Germany, Czech Republic, Serbia are known to have some exceptional deals. If you are visiting VietNam, Russian and Chinese tickets are cheap there, too.Related to:
Europe Direct: Free Information about Europe
Don't be trapped. Take the time to know your rights before you travel or transact any business.
You can get all kind of information concerning Europe by calling from any country of the
European Union the free number
0 800 6 7 8 9 10 11
Unique Suggestions: The mission of the network is to:
- enable local citizens to obtain information, advice, assistance and answers to
questions about the European Union’s institutions, legislation, policies, programmes
and funding opportunities;
- actively promote local and regional debate about the European Union and its policies;
- allow the European institutions to improve the dissemination of information tailored to
local and regional needs;
- give the public the opportunity to send feedback to the European Union institutions in
the form of questions, opinions and suggestions.
To find a contact point close to you choose your country from the above website.
You can also get in contact with the European institutions through the internetRelated to:
- Business Travel
Stay off the toll roads
Expensive toll roads can eat a hole in your travel budget. Avoid the added cost by taking alternate routes, unless you're in a raving hurry. Traveling round trip on France's autoroutes from Paris to Marseille may cost double what a puddle jump flight on a budget airline costs. I use France as an example, but I strongly suspect this is true in many parts of Europe. Besides more money in the wallet, another benefit of taking the less-traveled routes where possible will be more scenic and you will get a better sense of what the country you visit is really like by meeting the more helpful people in friendlier towns.
Unique Suggestions: A little intelligent pre-planning before you set off for Europe should have you avoid situations where taking these expensive highways becomes a necessity. If you are backed into such a corner, use these highways as sparingly as possible.
Fun Alternatives: Even though it is slower and maybe more indirect, back roads don't have any exhorbitant tolls.Related to:
- Road Trip
N is for no hope from here on in...
My definition of a tourist trap is 'a place that you are excited to visit...but it turns out you would have rather spent that time doing overtime at work....unpaid'.
Skegness in Lincolnshire certainly fulfill this criteria. For everything you ever wanted to know about Skeggy, plus much you didn't, may I humbly direct you towards my Skegness site on VT.
K is for killer tourist trap
I read a history book recently that claimed Lynch's memorial window in Galway was the first official tourist trap in the world. The story of the hanging is 15th century, the stones 16th century and the actual 'arrangement' is 19th century.
Lynch's memorial window thus commemorates one of Galway's most enduring legends.
Apparantly, the mayor of Galway, James Lynch FitzStephen, hanged his son from the window of his home in 1493. Lynch's son had murdered a Spainish man in the care of the family.
Some say that this story is an echo of the Senator Brutus, in Roman Empire times, who executed two of his sons for treason ; either way both stories show the hold republican values can take - thinking of the city before your family.
It maybe a 'con' in one sense, but it is free to see, and the full story is a real cracker...
I is for insure you have booked a place
Even when everybody tell you there are simply 'tons' of places to stay, it doesn't always work.
Take this example of trying to find accommodation around lehinch, county Clare. Ireland........
We recently spent 4 hours searching for accommodation before we struck lucky, and finally got a whole house to ourselves for the price of a B&B room.
At one house, before this stroke of luck, we knocked at the door to enquire about B&B and was greeted by a pair of small boys from the garden who were having a kickabout. After enquiring if their parents were in, they returned after a few minutes.
“Me Da’s not in”
“Me Ma’s not in”
“There someone on the couch”
“Well can you ask someone on the couch if you have any rooms going”
A few minutes later still the boys returned.
“He said we are all full”
I’m sure I distinctly heard the words “And tell them to Feck off as well” from the distant background.
With customer service like that the Celtic Tiger is in good hands.
H is for Hotels that don't deserve their stars
Hotels of this sort can be found in many a European city. Many a large city hotels built at the turn of the last century.
A good example is the Britannia Adelphi Hotel in Liverpool, UK.
This is an account of a visit in 2005:
Initial signs were not good - just inside the front door a bucket was catching raindrops coming through the stained ceiling.
The room rack rate (nobody ever pays it) is around 160 pounds, but after inspecting a room we were glad that we had saved our pennies. The furnishings were very dated and a little frayed whilst the 'Four poster bed' looked so flimsy is anything more energetic than sleeping took place, then it would surely be matchwood within seconds.
The hotel is also famous for being used a few years ago in a BBC 'Fly on the wall' documentary. Famous scence including the old battleaxe of a general manager ejecting a fat hooker from reception and a wedding party where the best man declared 'This is a real Liverpool wedding, the tables will soon be cleared for the fighting'.
G is for Gibraltar's caves...
Whilst the rock of Gibraltar is a very impressive place to visit the caves that lie underneath it really do fail to live up to expecations.
There are two caves to visit, and one of them makes a very fine and unusual location for a musical concert.
As caves go, however there appears to be no beginning to their charms.
(c) spanish tourist board.
Unique Suggestions: Stick to exploring the historical buildings and the ape colonies on the exterior
X is for x-rated entertainment
One is tempted to write something very smutty when you are given the lead on this type of tip of 'we have all been sucked in before.....' - it's certainly true in Amsterdam !
If you come to Amsterdam to visit the red-light area where row upon row of women sit in their little neon-lit boxes waiting for trade, then be aware : they will not all (in fact hardly any) will be tall, blonde, leggy uber-babes of the fevered male imagination.
Z is for zzzedding the night away
Many hotels in Europe, especially older city hotels and those located in seaside resorts have a disco/club located in the basement.
I often find this to be case in Eastern european cities where the art of soundproofing appears to have been well and truely lost.
Don't believe the brochures - ring the hotel and find out about such things. Even if you are a 'heavier' sleeper like me, remember that 'jungle' music blasted out at full volume at three in the morning three floors below making your bed and wardrobe dance around the room is no lauhing matter.
Unique Suggestions: Ask for a room well way from the disco - and insist on it, or go the club yourself - that way your beauty sleep won't be disturbed - because you won't have any !
T is transfers from the airport
With the rapid increase in low-cost flight destinations within Europe many tourists are 'fooled' into believing that the airport they are flying to is anywhere near the city advertised. The Irish airline Ryanair is the worst offender, but others are at it as well - advertising some secondary airport miles into the countryside as a gateway to major city.
I think the best example was when they advertised flights from London to Copenhagen. They actually landed at Malmo, which is even in a different country !
Other examples have landed them in court , sometimes they can continue the advertising, sometimes they are forced to admit a one hour flight might be followed by a two hour transfer !
Just have a look on the map at these examples :
Oslo - when you land at Torp
Brussells - when you land at Charleroi
Frankfurt - when you land at Hahn
Barcelona - when you land at Girona
Unique Suggestions: check out the websites and transfer information
Fun Alternatives: pay the cash and fly to a real airportRelated to:
- Budget Travel
O is Open top bus tour
It would seem that virtually every city in western Europe that feels it is a 'tourist destination' must have a 'hop-on hop-off' service that links the major tourist sites.
If you want a brief overview of a city and only have a few hours to spare, and especially if the places of interest are well spread out then it can make sense.
All too often however the following downsides occur :
1) it is way overpriced compared to using a day-pass on public transport - e.g in london and Paris
2) the distance between buses is infrequent and erratic
3) the guide is a grade A twerp who makes half of it up, and will break into song at some point (especially true in Dublin)
4) even worse the 'guide' is taped, and never seems to quite match up to where you are on the trip (most laces if you are not using the 'home' language)
5) there is little to see outside the central area. For example a bus tour of Galway, ireland was once described as "The best tour I have ever been on....of car parks and shopping centres"
6) the company uses polluting old diesel rot-boxes which you inhale every time it lurches forward.
J is for Journey to the past....
Many European cities have some kind of attraction that supposedly gives an 'audio visual experience' using ' the cutting technology of the 21st century'.
What they mean is as follows : you are treated to a few offcasts from the dusty local museum followed by a 35 minute film voiced by a semi-famous actor desperate for the money.
A typical example would be 'The Paris story' opposite the 'Opera'. Avoid.
Unique Suggestions: You can gain the same information from a simply written leaftlet, or fifteen minutes on a well-written VT page of the choosen city.
D is for Doomsday - booking to
If you were to book a west-end show in london based on how long the show has been running would end up watching a production of 'The Mousetrap'.
This show has been running since the first guests booked by the name of Mr & Mrs Adam. whilst it is a fine murder mystery by Agatha Christie the show is kept running by coachloads of women of a certain age from the provinces in their twin set and pearls and flasks of tea.
In 'Time-out' the weekly listings magazine for London, the show is listed as 'booking until Doomsday'.
Longevity is no guide to quality, rather like ' Starlight express' - what a load of complete cobblers.
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