These past two weeks have been hectic. I wish I could say that it was because I was enjoying some crazy adventure and that I have a wonderful story with words of wisdom to follow, but I don’t. Truthfully, I have sat down to write this blog post about three times and each time I leave frustrated. Writers block is a real problem people!
Anyway, I decided that instead of worrying so much about what I was going to write about and if it was going to be meaningful, I thought I would take a minute and share some of my traveling tips that I have been picking up along the way as I’ve been here abroad. The two most common issues about traveling are transportation and accommodations. So here is my advice on these two very important aspects of traveling.
Back in August, I wrote a blog post about how to get the best flight prices…but as the continual learner that I am, I have learned new and better methods to find those fantastic prices! With that said, I have to be honest, I hate trying to buy the best flight prices. This is part of the planning process that I do not enjoy, but I have found some methods to make it a wee bit easier.
The main resources that I use are: Hopper (this is my favorite), Kayak, Skyscanner, and Google Flights. These are all apps on my iPhone that I use constantly. I have set up alerts for all upcoming flights and these apps watch them for me…they also send me alerts roughly ever two-three hours, I always think I am incredibly popular every time my phone buzzes when in fact it is just flight prices. Anyway, the reason I love Hopper is because it informs you when to buy. Hopper will tell you when prices are rising and lowering like all the other apps, but instead of stopping there, it also informs you when you should buy your ticket by to get the best price. For example, I have a flight from Madrid – Zagreb being watched, every time the price changes it alerts me, but it also tells me that I should book now, soon or later depending on price trends. Trust me, it’s great and super helpful. Out of all of them, I think this is the best.
Now seeing as I actually have not flown on a plane since I landed in Madrid in September (but I have booked for upcoming trips on those sites, trust me!) I need to explain what I have been doing to get around! The truth is I have had more experience with the bussing, car and train systems in Spain.
So what’s my main method of transportation? BUS. The bussing system in Spain is amazing; you can catch a big coach bus to just about anywhere. My method for buying these tickets is first looking at the website: goeuro.com, searching my city of interest, finding out the busing company and then searching that specific company’s website. I have purchased my tickets directly from goeuro.com, but sometimes it pays to check the actual busing company website. Sometimes the prices are cheaper buying directly from there!
Trains are a little more on the expensive side, but sometimes vale la pena (it’s worth it!) Where buses do have their charm, trains, to me, are just much more relaxing! I don’t know what it is about a good train ride, but it’s amazing! The train system in Spain that is most common is Renfe. This will take you just about anywhere in Spain, but there is also AVE that is also very nice as well. To get these tickets, I typically look directly at the train companies website so this will vary depending on the country.
Cars. Now I don’t have a load of experience with this mode of transportation apart from my awesome compañeros del cole (coworkers from school) carpool, but when my parents visited from the states, they rented a car to tote the whole crew around Spain. I have also had a few friends rent vehicles and had great success as well! So this is an option. From what I can tell, it is a relatively cheap option if you are trying to get to places that the bussing system is unable to get to. With that said, I don’t know if I would rent a car for any other reason besides that. Another car transportation option is Blah Blah Car. This is becoming increasingly more popular around Europe even though I have yet to utilize it! This is a car sharing method of transport that people have really seemed to like. I have heard some horror stories, but overall it has been worth it for most! I would recommend taking a peek at this site when considering your travel.
Moving on from transportation to alojamiento (accommodations). My first search whenever I am looking for a place to stay in a city is always hostels. I prefer hostels most of the time for the social aspect of the stay…as well as the cheaper price. Hostels are fun to stay at if you choose the right one, but also a great way to meet new people and learn cool things about the place you are staying. Perks of staying at good hostels can be free food (breakfast and sometimes dinners at some places), free walking tours, pub-crawls, activities, etc. The options are endless and each hostel has a unique vibe…definitely my method of accommodation! My only advice is to try to stay in an eight-person room and under. I have stayed in a 24-person room before and it was a nightmare, so be wary if you don’t like the lights turning on and off all night!
But sometimes I don’t want to stay with other people! Sometimes I want my own area, with my own friends and nothing more. That’s where Airbnb comes in. I am sure you have heard about this website…the good and the bad. I have used Airbnb a handful of times and never had an issue. This is a method of accommodation that you can rent either a private room of someone’s apartment or the entire apartment by itself. The options are endless for this! The only problem I have run into is not doing my research ahead of time and booking an Airbnb in a “far from the city center” neighborhood. This isn’t the end of the world, but it is somewhat irritating when you want to be in on all the action of the city.
So that’s what I have! I know that doesn’t encapsulate all the aspects of traveling nor does it tell any of my personal travel experience, but I thought that some of my friends who are planning the trip abroad might be worried about these two vital aspects of traveling and hopefully now have some new resources!
Apart from that, I promise this writer’s block will end soon; I traveled to Brugos, Spain last week for a Fulbright Mid-Year conference and this March I will be heading off to Berlin, Germany…so I should have things to write about…more to come soon!
Sending good vibes to all my family and friends!