You know, now that I’ve come back from overseas, and had a little time to appreciate what I saw, and think about it a bit, there’s a couple of important things I think it would be worth sharing with you all. Please, take this advice as you would anything else I say: not terribly seriously….. unless I mean it.
RODNEYS RULES OF TRAVEL
1) – For goodness sake, don’t listen to anybody telling you that “the French are really rude” or “the Italians are lovely” or any other such nonsense, because as soon as you do, you’ll regret it. And those people will have had different experiences that you will no doubt have. If you go in with an expectation, you’ll probably find yourself looking for that behaviour in the locals.
2) – Learn the local lingo a little, especially the key words and phrases. “Hello”, “how much?” and “where’s a toilet” are all key phrases that you need to learn when travelling to a foreign country where English is not the first language. By learning a little of the language, you’ll come across as less arrogant than those people who simply barrel into a shop and start babbling in English as if it’s the only language in the world. It isn’t, and we learned quite quickly that if you try a little local lingo, they are a lot more understanding and friendly. If you make an effort, it works wonders.
3) – Take plenty of pocket change. In Europe, public toilets are invariably “pay as you use” affairs, with very few free public amenities. Hotel toilets are free, of course, but you won’t always be near one of them.
4) –GPS Navigation is essential if you plan on hiring a car. We drove from Dublin airport, using the GPS, and it took around an hour (most of that time we were in traffic, which is schoking in Dublin at the best of times!), however a couple of other Aussies arrived on the plane earlier that morning and only got to the hotel at the same time as us…they were using a standard UBD map! Trying to find a hotel on a street you don’t know, in a city you’ve never been, is actually quite difficult. Imagine trying to read a map whilst driving in the Sydney equivalent of peak hour and not know where you’re going? Ireland, of which my opinion is exceptionally high, has a lot (and I mean a lot!) of small, winding, single lane roads; in fact, each town is usually accessable by about four other roads from neighbouring towns. Trying to navigate by signeage would have been a nightmare, however, a GPS system really made our trip utterly relaxed. I cannot recommend this more highly.
5) – Everything costs, and is dearer than Australia. Be prepared for a surprise when it comes to paying for things. The Australian price of a glass of Coke is far less than what you’d pay anywhere in Europe, including Ireland.
6) – Don’t be afraid to use the public transport system. Whatever you do, don’t make the mistake of thinking you need to catch a taxi everywhere. In every city we went to where large volumes of people need to travel, the public transport system (especially trains and subways) is first class in terms of coverage and pricing. You can get virtually everywhere in every major city, and the train and bus systems are all linked together so that if you need to transfer between services, you don’t have to wait long. If you are anywhere near a hotel, there will always be a bus or train station nearby, so ask your hotel reception for a timetable, or heck, even just rock up! Most services are pretty frequent during the day, so it would also pay to use a “daypass” or some other kind of frequent use system. Most metro’s utilise them, especially those in tourist oriented cities. But using the public transport system is as easy as pie. As long as you can read letters of the alphabet, you’ll have no troubles. London’s subway is mildly expensive, but still a far cry from what the taxi’s will slug you.
7) – The Heathrow Express is a rip-off. Anybody landing in London will be tempted (or advised by their travel agent) to take the Heathrow Express to get from the airport to London. Unless you are suffering from a heart problem or perhaps in the midst of dying, avoid the Heathrow Express. Lisa and I paid 30 pound (damn Australian keyboard doesn’t have the pound symbol) to get to central London, and it took us no more than 15 minutes. This might sound like a bargain until you factor in that 30 quid is close to AUS$70. Thats a bucketload of money for a train ride shorter than you’d get at an amusement park for a tenth that price. My advice, if you are on a budget or trying to save your cash: just catch the regular subway. It might take longer, but a regular adult fare on the underground in London will set you back around 4 quid and is quite pleasant. I will commit atrocities on anybody who tells me that the Heathrow Express is value for money. It’s not.
8) – Bed & Breakfasts in Ireland rock. If you plan to travel to Ireland, don’t bother to book accommodation beforehand. Only book the first night (to let Immigration know where you’ll be) and then just wing it. Lisa and I had no problems whatsoever finding accommodation at local Bed & Breakfasts wherever we went in Ireland, and for a very good reason: they are bloody everywhere. Ireland relies heavily on the tourist trade, so every single town is swarming with locals who own a B&B. As long as you get yourself to one before tea time, you’ll have no dramas at all. For the eight days we were in the country, we only found two B&B’s that were full when we knocked on their door. And it’s a great way to meet locals, after all. And they’re cheap, usually around 60-100 Euro per night (for a double)… less for a single.
Thats about all the info I can think of for the moment. I will try and come up with more in due time, but for now, it’s back to uploading more images!