What I’ve learned from traveling, pt. 3

Another trip, and another what-I’ve-learned post. I guess it’s true that we never stop learning, huh? In my previous posts, I talked about planning your trip and staying safe (and un-scammed). Here I talk about both staying dry and hydrated, not getting ripped off paying for  water and transport and not missing out on some good weather and, like, a major sporting event.

  • Do the math: Transportation costs could be tricky. Outside of being scammed, you could still end up paying more than you should if you don’t take the time to do a little math. If you have an Oyster card to use in London, then you’re fine because the system does the computation for you. It will charge you the cost of whatever is cheaper between the cost of a day pass and the cost of your total individual trips in a day. For the Paris Metro/Bus/Tram/RER system it’s a little more complicated. You could get a weekly NaviGo pass (but you have to pay €5 for the card itself), buy a daily pass for about €6, buy a carnet of 10 tickets for €12.50, buy them one by one from ticket vending machines for €1.70 each or buy one-stop-only bus tickets for €1.90 in the bus (this one’s a rip off). I know it’s a bit of a hassle, but take the time to estimate how many times you’ll be using public transport so you end up paying the smallest possible amount for your transportation. This is particularly important towards the end of your trip, as you don’t want to end up with 6 leftover tickets from your carnet. Also, read the terms for your ticket. In Rome, for example, the bus tickets are valid for as unlimited bus rides within 75 minutes of the first validation. So if you just plan to take the bus from the Vatican to Piazza Navona, to walk around the piazza for 15-20 minutes to take pictures and to take a bus again to Piazza Venezia, check for the time of your last ticket’s validation. If you didn’t linger in front of that famous fountain too long, you might still be able to use your old ticket and save yourself a Euro.
  • Check the weather: And, no, I don’t mean the averages that are on WikiTravel. Because averages are just that, averages. You never know if the country your visiting is having an unusually cold/rainy summer. So make the effort to check actual weather forecasts and plan accordingly. If the weather is being particularly fickle (for instance, it was alternately rainy and sunny my first few days in Paris), then check everyday and adjust your plans according to the weather. It would be particularly annoying if you spent a beautiful, cloudless day inside the Louvre, and a rainy day in Versailles. Or if, like me, you get stuck in the rain on the ONLY day you didn’t bring an umbrella while out and about in Paris.
  • BYOB (of water): I know it’s heavy and such a hassle to carry around (not to mention the fact that it screams “tourist!!”) but it’s essential to have water on you during your sightseeing jaunts. After the climb up the St. Peter’s Basilica cupola, believe me, you’ll need it. The thing is, though, the stuff could cost you a pretty penny (or centime) if you’re not smart about it. Buy it from a kiosk smack dab in the middle of a tourist spot, and it’ll cost you €2.00 in Rome or a hefty €2.70 at the Paul kiosk at the Louvre lobby (rip-off!). It’ll be cheaper through a vending machine (€1.80 in Paris), but cheapest from a supermarket (€0.85 from a Franprix). If you’re not iffy from drinking water from the tap (I am, even if it’s safe, I have no idea why) then bring your own water bottle with you and just refill. Not only is it cheap, it’s much more environmentally friendly, too.
  • Check the local calendar: Some people plan a trip specifically to be there for a specific holiday or a festival. I’m not one of those people. But it actually pays to checkout if anything special is going on in a city while you’re there. A painting may be on loan to the local museum for a limited time, the gay pride parade may be happening over the weekend, or, you know, these guys could be passing through the Champs-Élysées while you’re doing your shopping:

I hope these tips help you make the most out of the weather, your money, and what little time (it’s never enough, is it?) you have in the place you’re visiting. If you have tips of your own, as usual, let me know in the comments! I’ve gotten some great ones from my previous what-I’ve-learned posts, and if I get enough, I just might write one with tips exclusively from the commenters! (And no, I’m not just being lazy about writing. Haha.)

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