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When I follow the discussions in the VT-forum I see that many tourists have the feeling it is the best to reserve a seat for mountain-trains etc. a long time in advance.
The only one who will be happy about that is your travel-agent, who takes a lot of extra money and you will have to take that train at a certain date and time, no matter how the weather is or how sick you are feeling...
In trains like Jungfraubahn you will always catch a seat, especially when you take the first train in the morning. And for the last train down they always have a 2nd train at the same time, because it is their task and interest not to leave anybody behind in the empty station, where the only hotel will be Moenchshuette in a walking distance of more than 1 hour.
Once that you have made a reservation it will be hard to change the date of the ticket, even when maybe the weather would be a lot better tomorrow, but you booked in advance a long time ago for today...
In case that you feel better that way:
Make your reservations after arrival!
Updated Apr 24, 2011
When taking the cablecars or cog-wheel-trains to the mountains of Switzerland take good hiking-shoes instead of your Manolo Blahniks,then you will be able to smile for some of the funny "trafic-signs" like the one on my main picture: Many of the paths are slippery sometimes, you will have to step through alpine pastures, solid rocks and loose gravel - all of that is not really a good place to show your latest fashion-shoes...
Be careful, when hiking at glaciers in wintertime : For some people it is not always easy to understand, why you would not be allowed to leave the marked paths on top of Jungfraujoch. You may see great crevasses there nearby and plenty of foot-prints of other tourists leading there as well...
I made my pics in a large distance !
Please keep in my mind, that any rescue-activities have to be payed by the incautious tourists, and most of the insurances will not pay anything, when you had left the ordinary mountain-paths !!
Some chocolate and an extra bottle of water makes always sense, because when hiking you never know how long you will have to wait for help in case of an emergency or when you are forced to get shelter in an empty mountain-hut because it is that foggy or raining outside that you cannot see, where you are going.
Bottles of the light PET-material are the best - you will not feel them, when they are empty, and you may re-fill them at many natural fountains on your way - the quality of the mountain-water is always excellent in Switzerland and the cheapest mineral water you may buy in a vending-machine is 2 sfr., mostly it is even more expensive.
Updated Apr 24, 2011
On your hiking maps you might find plenty of shelter-huts in the mountains, BUT don't count on them too much ! Most of them might be good for a short break in nasty weather, BUT as a place to spend the night they will mostly be totally out of question :
1) the interior is made in a way that makes sleeping there almost impossible : narrow, rough and simple benches will make it impossible to spend the night there.
2)Most of these huts will also be used as toilets by sheep and cows and there is a terrible smell inside
3)You never know, how many hikers had the same idea to rest inside the hut you are heading to
I saw various such shelter-huts and only close to bachalpsee there were a few that had a door-system that would no animals enable to walk inside of them.
The hut on my main picture had a perfect view - see my other picture - BUT it was totally open at the other side and used as toilet not only by cows...
Updated Apr 24, 2011
I remember vividly the first time I went to Paris and was so excited about finally seeing the Eiffel Tower "in person" so to speak. Imagine my disappointment when I found this French icon swathed in green netting right around its middle where there were some repairs and maintenance being carried out. There went all hope of the perfect picture of me and the Eiffel Tower!
Four European trips later, I can say to anyone making their first trip to the Continent, that all of these wonderful historic sites have only survived through hundreds and in many cases thousands of years, because they have been well maintained on a regular basis. The other side of the story is the many castles, churches and bridges etc, which have been allowed to fall into delapidation and decay and have ultimately become ruins. Of course in many instances, these fine old buildings have been bombed or have burnt down etc, but there are still a lot which have quite simply been left to rot.
Don't be upset when you see a cathedral, palace, bridge etc partially covered by scaffolding. Rather be thankful that the proper measures are being taken for its survival for generations to come.
Similarly, please understand that many of these historic sites have to charge an admission fee for no other reason than to keep up the maintenance.
Updated Nov 28, 2010
All the usual advice applies to using taxis in Eastern Europe.
But in Prague, especially, don't be fooled by the nice car and "I'll use the meter" line - they can set it at whatever rate they like.
The only way around this is to work out the distance you will be covering, get a rough price from the hotel and/or a local and set a price with a driver before you get into his cab.
Further tips :
1) Always ring for a taxi if you can (e.g from AAA cabs). Avoid the heavily touristed areas and the main railway station.
2) Only use taxis that have their rates posted on the outside of the cab
3) Discuss the price of the trip (or max cost if using the meter) with the driver before actually getting into his cab.
4) When you get in - learn the name of the driver and write it down on a a notepad with the car reg. If he objects to this he will be dodgy. Get out and walk away.
5) Watch the meter is set right - its not too difficult to estimate a kilometer. If it's flying by then demand to stop and get out - paying only what is already on the meter.
6) Follow the route on a map so he dosn't follow the 'scenic route'.
7) If the price seems high ask for a reciept with the amount, taxi registration and drivers name written on it.
Updated Feb 3, 2005
I'll double this one and also place it under "transport". Be fair to the system and if, only rate it once.
A very serious word for travellers who fly into Europe from a non-EU country and change planes in a European country; e.g. coming from Singapore, change planes in Frankfurt to go to anywhere (EU and non-EU).
Since November 2006, Europe is hysterial about the liquids which are being carried in hand luggage. Well, this is the case in other countries are as well, but Europe topped it with a speciality about the real liquids, like alcohol and also perfumes etc.
Apart from the max. 50 ml of liquids like tootpaste, cream etc, which should be packed into a sealable transparent bag (e.g. the bags we use for freezing), you are not allowed to take any liquid past security.
This includes water.
You cannot take water, even not a 1 l sealed water bottle, across security.
You can buy a water bottle at any shop past security, but the shop will pack it into their special sealable bags.
You can open the bag between security and entering the plane, if you are thirsty – BUT – you cannot take the opened bag on the plane then.
This is the easy part. You only might loose the 2-3 Euro you have to pay for a simple water bottle.
The difficult part, however, is that you cannot bring alcohol, perfumes, creams, etc from Duty Free shops outside of the EU and change planes at any EU airport. This, since the non-EU Duty Free shops might not be able to pack your booze into these special sealable bags.
You take a plane in Singapore, go to Duty Free and buy some bottles of alcohol and perfume. They put it in any bag. You happily fly into Frankfurt, get off the plane and into transit. Security will surly find whatever liquid you bought and confiscate it = take it away from you and will give you no refund.
There is nothing you can do, well, except boycott flying in general.
Photo 1 and 2 are of the water bottle in this special bag, with the bill inside. Photo 3 of the security label and photo 4 of the liquid-security-laws, which I found printed in Sweden’s Arlanda Airport.
© Ingrid D., January 2007, text revamp August 2011.
Updated Aug 4, 2011
and the danger of the London minicabbers
Beware of the magic tree.
There are about 50,000 minicabs in London, apparantly. The government are beginning to bring in regulations, but it is likely to remain the preserve of some very dodgy characters for some time to come.
Fares are cheaper than Black cabs at about 6 quid for a couple of miles and a couple of quid a mile thereafter. If you know a reputable firm & ring for them then it will probably be fine. If you are in a restaurant or similar there may well be adverts or cards available - or just ask.
The real dodgy geysers are those who hang around outside nightclubs in the small hours touting for business. In these situations you have got to be either really careful or preferably part of the front row of a rugby scrum.
Main tips to look out for dodgy minicab drivers :
1) Car in disgusting colour like turd brown or vomit green.
2) Car is over 10 years old (L reg and earlier)
3) More than one magic tree on the central mirror hiding a mixture of kebabs, B.O, the great smell of Brut and wet dogs.
4) The fiction that is the fare - no meters so it's all down to negotiation.
5) Do not let him take short cut on the pretence that he is learning 'the knowledge' to become a black cab driver -it's merely a ruse to extend the route and thus the fare.
6) Feel if the rear suspension is very slack - if it is he will have driven it hard over speed bumps to induce vomiting in his passengers and thus triple the fare.
For an insight into a minicab drivers lot watch the film "All or nothing" with Timothy Spall.
Updated Feb 3, 2005
It can happen almost everywhere. You are looking at the sights, enjoying your new surrounding.
Suddenly a friendly person shows up to make you aware that "you have there something on you". And really, you have! There is this nasty blotch of bird poop or mustard or whatever, right on your jacket / shirt / whatever.
Of course you have no idea where you got this from (it wasn´t there some minutes before). Now how do you clean it off?
The friendly person offers his help (mostly with a cleenex or something similar) and while you are both busy with cleaning the spot ... your wallet disappears right out of the jacket.
Not that you will remark that now.
Only some time later when you try to pay for something. But then it is way too late.
These people are (as all that make their living with catching purses) very agile. Mostly you will have no idea that your wallet went somewhere else.
So if you meet one of these friendly people trying to help you with some spot or cut or similar you have on you: just say NO. Don´t let anyone that close to you. Of course a spoiled jacket is bad. But believe me, loosing your wallet will be worse.
Updated Jul 10, 2005
Jack the Ripper tours have become big business in London.
If you have 100 people following you around at five pounds a head, then a tidy sum can be earnt.
Unfortunately the reputable companies now have to warn clients that 'hustlers' can sometimes get in on the act. They hold up a few leaflets that look authentic, collect a group, and head off into the night.
If people have paid up front, I presume they then disappear down a dark alley with the loot and the words "I'm Jack and you've been ripped off!".
The only way to avoid this is to telephone the company you are going to use (see tip in Must see activities) and get the name of that day's tour guide. Be sure you get the right person when you meet at Tower Hill tube (they nearly all start from there).
P.S I was goung to write a tip along the lines of try not to be a Victorian prostitute and get wasted on Gin - but I though G would pull it.
Written Mar 17, 2005
Believe it or not, it really happened to me, while I visited Russia in 2003:
I found 50.000,- $ right in the middle of the Red Square, and it fell out of a bag of someone walking in front of me - it actually was a bundele of a fake 50,-$ notes and a lot of paper behind it wrapped up in cellophane and there was another man beside me, who watched the scene and picked up the money, as soon as he saw, that I did not pick it up myseIf.Instead I told him, to give it back to the "looser", but he simply said to me : ' Lets make 50:50 '
I told him, this is not OK - and I ran after the ' Looser ' and told him, he lost the money, and the other man had it now but the ' looser ' started to shout at me :
WHERE ARE MY 50000,- $ ?
YOU HAVE TAKEN MY 50000,-$ !
Show me YOUR DOLLARS !!!
THIS was the moment , when I realized it was a trick, just to let me show them , where I hide my Dollars - they would have searched my money and would have taken it away, without me even realizing it
I simply replied : I HAVE NO DOLLARS AT ALL
Then I turned around and went away - and when I looked back after 5 seconds - they both were gone
I guess, I confused them somehow :
Plenty of people would take the money or at least accept the 50 : 50 deal - and will be finally robbed of their own money, as soon as they search through their portemonaie
obviously no-one would run after the ' looser ' to tell him, he lost the money
and most people would show their own Dollars, just to proove to be unguilty and I guess, they still have to improove their trick, as it sounded so ridiculously, hearing them speak english with russian accent with each other - and beeing dressed almost the same way made me finally sure, that they belonged together
NEVER call for the police in such a situation !!
In some cases the police will be on the scammers side,
in any way the police will not understand anything than russian
and they will start examining YOUR papers first and listen to the version of the story, told by the scammers, who will be able to talk in Russian...
it is a lot better to walk or run away or simply neglect them.
start talking kisuaheli and pretend NOT to understand english or what they are talking about !!
Updated Apr 24, 2011
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