4 Tips for Using Public Transportation Abroad

Unless you are a seasoned traveler or you live in a big city, using public transportation while traveling can sometimes be intimidating. But public transportation is not only very budget friendly, it is also very efficient. As a bonus, you get the experience of traveling “as a local”. Recently, I used London’s Underground, more commonly known as the Tube, to get around the city. If you are still planning transportation for your upcoming trip and don’t know how you are going to get from the Tower Bridge to Westminster Abbey in less than 15 minutes, here are a few tips:

Purchasing your pass or tickets

If you know far enough in advance where you will be traveling, you can buy a pass ahead of time and have it mailed right to your door. But if you don’t have the chance to do this before your trip, don’t worry — Underground stations have a ticket counter or an automated kiosk where you can make your purchase. I did not purchase my card ahead of time; I simply used one of the automated machines.

To use the Underground system in London, you can choose to purchase a single / return ticket, a day pass ticket, or a reloadable Oyster card. The Oyster card is usually the easiest option, and it can also be used for other modes of public transport as well: bus, tram, London Overground, National Rail, etc. The Oyster card cost me a £5 deposit and then I was free to load as much money on it (or “top up”) as I saw fit. Another example is the Metro in Paris, where you can purchase a pass ahead of time, or buy individual tickets at automated Metro stations. Keep in mind that it is usually more cost-efficient to buy a pass, rather than point-to-point tickets.

Public transportation ticket options in London

Grab a map

Maps are often considered out of date and old fashioned in today’s technology-filled world. But I can tell you from experience that, when navigating a new subway system, a small portable map is your best friend. Stations always have large maps posted throughout, but with a portable map, if you are planning your day over breakfast, you can mark the names of your stops ahead of time. You can often find free Underground maps in the tube stations, or you can download and print them in advance. I also always download the local public transportation app on my phone, as this is always very helpful. But take note, sometimes cellular service while traveling abroad is spotty, especially if you are underground in a subway system.

London Underground map

London Underground map courtesy of Transport for London

Stay safe

It is very important to always be aware of where you are and where you are going. Double and triple check the names of your stop, and keep an eye on those around you. Always keep your personal items with you. Sometimes transport authorities will want to check your pass or ticket before exiting the system to make sure you have paid for your transportation. Make sure to keep your metro card or ticket in a safe, but easily accessible place until you have exited the station. It is not worth risking a fine because you did not keep track of your ticket.

Waiting for the Tube in London

Ask questions

Before you travel, be sure to ask your travel professional any questions you may have. They can assist you in purchasing these passes ahead of time, or guide you through the exact process for the city you are visiting. Stations also have professionals throughout the system to assist you if needed, so don’t be afraid to ask!


Have you tried using public transportation while traveling abroad? Share your experiences with us in the comments or on Facebook!

European Travel

A group of five is traveling to Europe. I am a part of this group. I have let two of the travelers do almost all the planning. This will be a first for me. I am usually the one who does the planning. It should be a new experience.

Speaking of new experiences our group will be using the Rail Europe train system for transport between the larger cities. We need to travel from Amsterdam to Brussels, then from Brussels to Paris. Witte Travel & Tours can arrange your Rail Europe travel before you leave the states. You can get your rail passes and your reserved seats that are used on the high-speed trains. Just be sure to remember to take the tickets with you! Looking forward to traveling by train. My husband and I used the rail system in Germany. It was quite an efficient way to travel. It wasn’t as hard to figure out as I thought it might be.

With less one week to go until we leave, it is time to start the lists and piles of items I need to pack. Something to do on the train might be nice, or maybe I’ll just look out the window.

 

 

German Train Travel

View from our hotel Rothenburg
The view from our hotel window. We were on the top floor.

We managed to sleep in until 8am today. We got up and found the breakfast location that was part of the hotel. It was off site. I am not enjoying the German breakfasts. Tim does though. I am not big fan of meat and cheese for breakfast. I am making do though; when in Rome. We did not know how to check out of the hotel, so we just left the key in the room. The place is very small. There might be 17 rooms in the whole place. It was cute though, and unique.

We got to the train station in plenty of time and boarded our train. Today we were to travel by train from Rothenburg ob der Tabuer to Steinach, then on to Wurzburg, to Fulda and finally to Leipzig. The train from Steinach to Wurzburg was late. (Which was the only train our whole trip that was late.) This moved the rest of our schedule back. Instead of getting into Leipzig at 14:46 we didn’t get here until 16:20.

Our hotel, the Best Western Leipzig, is just across the road from the train station. This hotel is very nice, and our room is quite large. We have a sitting area, sleeping area, a hallway and a bathroom. We checked in and then quickly went out to see the Bach Museum before it closed at 18:00. We got there just about 45 minutes before they closed. We went through it anyway. It was small but very enjoyable. The old instruments were very cool, as were the actual Bach manuscripts. It was too dark to really see the Thomaskirke, so we may go out in the morning before we head to Berlin. The city has a younger vibrate vibe, much like Dublin. There are streets closed off to traffic with lots of pedestrian usage.

German Trains
We found the German train system to be clean, efficient and easy to navigate.

The train to Berlin will be about an hour and ten minutes. It is a direct train as well, which will be nice after all the changing we did toady. Again, big thanks to Tracy for the schedules. It made me much more comfortable navigating around.

I wish I had thought to bring a pedometer. It would be interesting to see how much walking we have really been doing. Our feet sure tell us that we’ve walked a lot. Though today not so much, since we had five hours on the train.

All in all I am very glad we got the rail pass and took the rain system. It has been a learning experience for sure.
Next stop – Berlin!

Traveling In Europe By Train

Europe By Train

Have you ever decided to do something while traveling and then wondered if that was a good decision?

Recently, I planned a trip for my family to travel around Europe by train. We planned on visiting four countries during our vacation. After considering the pros and cons of renting a car or traveling by train, train travel stood out as the best choice for us. I have traveled by train in Europe without my family in the past and really enjoyed it, but that was years ago. What if traveling with a family was more difficult? What if I didn’t remember how to do it or screwed up and got on the wrong train or off at the wrong destination and lead my family astray? These questions swirled around in my mind.

Because we were going to several different destinations, I decided to purchase Eurail passes for each of us. Eurail offers quite a few options for passes, so you can pick the best-fitting one based on how many countries you will visit and how many days you want to travel. We purchased the Eurail Select Pass, which worked perfectly with our itinerary because it would allow us to travel throughout 4 bordering countries of our choice. Next, I looked at all of the train departure times and made reservations on the trains that required a reservation. I also downloaded the Eurail “Rail Planner” app on my phone. This app gave me access to rail schedules, made it easy to locate train stations, displayed city maps, and much more. We were well prepared before we left for Europe.

Salzburg Train Station
Waiting at the train platform in Salzburg, Austria

Once we arrived in Europe, we walked to the train station that was located right at the airport. By looking at the train arrival/departure monitors, we could see which track our train would come in on, as well as the exact time it was scheduled to depart. All we had to do was head to the platform and wait for the train. Once we loaded our luggage on the train, we were able to relax and enjoy the ride. After a long night of sitting cooped up on an airplane, it felt so nice to be on the train; we could get up and walk around as much as we wanted or enjoy the comfortable train seats. And the views out the windows were a great way to acclimate ourselves to our current location.

Train Travel in Europe
Enjoying the big windows and roomy seats on the train after a cramped overnight flight.

My family embraced riding on the train. Our teenagers were excited to discover that the “the train was just like the trains used in the Harry Potter movies.” They loved that there was a food car on most of the trains as well, and that we were served a meal on the long train rides. Traveling in Europe by train with my family was just as good as it had been when I traveled alone. The extensive rail network in Europe made it simple to transfer from one destination to the next, and getting on and off the train was much easier than I remembered. There was no reason for me to be worried at all and I will definitely plan to travel by train in Europe again.

If the ease, comfort, and convenience of train travel appeals to you, let us know and we can help you arrange rail tickets and passes for your next vacation. Witte Travel & Tours is the only agency in West Michigan that has a direct link to Rail Europe’s reservation system, so we can process rail passes quickly while avoiding costly shipping fees.

What has been your experience with traveling by train? Share your stories with us on Facebook, or let us know what you think in the comments!