Research trumps transfer troubles
The internet is a glorious thing (most of the time) and what I consider to be the best travel tool since the suitcase or the airplane. Sorry, that is a sweeping declaration that is in no way based in fact, but there it is.
We all know that you can book pretty much your entire trip online without leaving the couch, but there are two tips (one old and one newly acquired) that I would still like to share with you all in regards to travel and the internet.
TIP ONE: HOTEL TRANSFER
I don’t know about you, but I find that after unspeakable hours on a plane, and all the hassle that comes along with it, the last thing I want to do is have to think really hard about how I’m getting to the hotel/backpackers, especially if everyone is speaking a foreign language.
You may be arriving in the middle of the day, as peak hour traffic hits, on a public holiday or in the middle of the night.
If you haven’t planned ahead you could end up getting really stressed on your very first day of your holiday! Not cool.
Check these things first, online, in advance so that you are prepared and if you are arriving late at night check ahead with your hotel about check-in at these hours.
Next, the how; will you take a taxi, bus, train, shuttle, walk? The options are endless.
Firstly, check with your hotel for airport transfers – number one easy option. One time I got a well priced transfer through my hotel from Leonardo da Vinci Airport to the hotel in the centre of Rome. When I came out of customs there was a man there with my name on a sign. I was one of those people!! I felt like a dork, but it was kind of cool and it was also an experience in itself – Italian driving, need I say more?
TAXI - could be, and usually is, the most expensive option, but it can be an easy option or it may be your only option. Go to the airport's website, most have a tab about transportation, and check for where the official taxi stands are.
When I flew into Bangkok I had a combination of arriving late at night into a foreign country for the first time and all I could say in Thai was hello and thank you.
I checked on their website and found that Suvarnabhumi Airport had a monitored taxi stand where only official taxis could get in and where a translator could tell the driver where to go (or in my case hand him the print out of the address – another must-have).
They also gave me a card with contact details on it should the taxi driver try to rip me off or whatever, and the drivers know this.
In a city where taxi drivers can try and convince you the unmetered fair is best (it usually is not) this seemed like, and for me, was a safe system.
PUBLIC TRANSPORT – hit and miss option, but can be very cost effective. Again go to the airport’s website and find that transportation section. Here you will soon find out if this is going to be an easy option or a nightmare-travel-story waiting to happen.
Some places (like Vancouver and London) have a public transport link to the centre of the city that can serve well if you are staying in a central location, or lead to a cheaper taxi ride or easy transfer if you aren’t.
Check ahead about these things and also ask your hotel for their best recommendations. This can be a scary option in non-English speaking countries, but it is an option to be considered.
With the likes of London (Heathrow or Gatwick) you can purchase and print train tickets (to Paddington or Victoria respectively) online with your credit card, and usually a discount.
There was even a lady right after passport control at Heathrow with a little credit card machine selling tickets to Paddington.
Vancouver, YVR has the Canada Line that takes you right into Downtown for $5 (taxi equivalent somewhere from $30-60) and tickets are available at those little ticket machines with local currency, and chances are you will be able to find a friendly Canadian who will help you if you are lost or confused.
Melbourne has a bus to Southern Cross Station. Brisbane has a train to multiple locations. Perth has taxi drivers that will like you if you are a large fare or poorly hide their disappointment if you aren't (true story; he regretted it because I’m grumpy when I’m jet-lagged).
Even our own Auckland Airport has buses at a much more reasonable price than a taxi. Or Google for the multiple shuttle companies that can take you to almost any part of Auckland for a set price.
WALKING - is only for those on really, really tight budget. Or the super duper keen beans. Not recommended and usually not all that safe either.
TIP TWO: FOREIGN CURRENCY
Well this is the new thing I have just this week discovered, I apologise if I’m on the late bus with this, but I will tell you about it anyway.
Go to www.travelex.co.nz and you can order your currency in advance with no commission. Score! It’s a very easy process.
1) Choose your currency and the amount.
2) Let them know which or their stores you want to collect it from and when you would like to collect it.
3) They send you an email with how to make an online bill payment straight from your bank account to theirs.
4) Show up at said time and location with your passport to collect it. You are away laughing.
For some of the odd currencies, like French Pacific Francs (New Caledonia), it means you won’t be caught out by the kiosk not having enough for you.
My sister and I have ordered our Francs and they will be ready and waiting for us at Auckland International Airport the day we depart. I believe you can do something very similar through your bank, but I’ve never done it.
These are just a few of the things I’ve learnt from my travel experiences and I hope that they can help you on your next trip.
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