Tag Archive: travel tips


Germany and Europe has become a different world. Not only as a result of the first major terror attacks in the United States, followed by regularly recurring attacks in public places, including North America and elsewhere.
But for me also of looking more critically at differences of life in general in North America as compared to my former (long-ago) homeland Germany.
In Summary: In my 52 years after having left it, (that is 43 years out of Europe), living, working and travelling in North America (US, Canada, Mexico) I have seen so much, met so many different peoples, and had so many unbelievable experiences that if I would even consider moving back to where I came from, it is like shrinking my brain from it’s now large size to a small pea, or having to wear some giant Scheuklappen [blinkers]. It’s all a matter of perspective.

TRAVEL TIPS.
Nonetheless, Visiting Germany one can be assured that most everything works efficiently. Not anymore their public transit system, because of shrinking public roads and excessive automobile traffic. And so many people. As a Canadian, I can say that, because we have hardly any population in the second largest country.

Good city maps are always tough to get on the Internet, in fact the ones you find are more or less useless. So, on arrival in any city in Europe first thing ask for city maps and regional maps.
I arrived Frankfort Airport. To get to Wiesbaden is easy: From the Airport Terminal 1 take the S-Bahn (Rapid Transit) S8, also works S9, to main train station, from there find the Bus to get you to your address. Free WiFi at Frankfurt Airport may work certain areas only. I got a copy of the entire transit network in Canada from the Internet: http://www.rmv.de, Regionaler Schienennetzplan and Schnellbahnplan.

The day of arrival I prefer to pay a one way ticket for the Bus, to first get to the wherever one resides. After that I buy a monthly bus pass. Strangest thing is, one enters a bus in the middle door, the driver does not care to see your bus pass. But beware, any control and you don’t have a pass, can cost 100$. In Hessen, Rheinland-Pfalz, I bought a monthly bus pass for the region Wiesbaden-Mainz, it includes also the S-Bahn.The monthly bus pass also includes the city of Mainz across the river Rhein, best to use is S-Bahn.
Mobile phone (in Germany called ,Handy,) setup is easy. Enough options offered by competing network servers with SIM card, special outlets or super markets or other stores. Buy the plan with the SIM on arrival.
The nicest thing about Wiesbaden are it’s many hot springs (Thermen) and Spa’s. There are many in this entire Rhine-Main region, which rests on a thin earth crust, therefore the many natural hot springs. Thousands of vineyards, good wines, too. Germany’s largest river Rhein offers plenty of river cruises starting Mainz/Wiesbaden along this most beautiful stretch of Germany, up to Cologne.

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Spending couple of months in Cannes, la Côte d’Azur, the wonderful warm Mediterranean Cost line of the South of France. Arriving 9 November 2015.

How to get here from North America

Nearest airport is Nice. Most North American flights go via Paris, major airport Charles de Gaulle (CDG), arrival Terminal 2E. In my case, flying Air France/KLM, I needed to take off for Nice from the second big airport in Paris – Orly. As CDG airport is very large, it takes some time to navigate to where the shuttle bus takes off for Orly Airport. Cost €21. As with most bus services, buy a ticket from an agent, not on the bus. Time to circumvent almost all of Paris to arrive at Orly is around 45 minutes. Arrival Nice – a short flight only – Terminal 2. From there an express shuttle train gets to Terminal 1, where the Express Bus #210 to Cannes takes off. Again, buy ticket inside the terminal, not from driver. Cost €20 one way. Time around 40 minutes.

Luggage delayed

I was late getting out of Nice airport, as my checked-in suit case had been left behind in Paris CDG airport. Reason: because I changed airports. Should have picked up my suit case at the carousel at CDG, Paris. However, the Canada Vancouver Airport agent had told me, the luggage goes thru to Nice. Spending some time with the Air France luggage services, which is inside a closed off secure area at Nice Airport. Made a report at Nice Airport. Then took the #210 bus to Cannes.

Mobile Phone

Had my old Motorola W370 (Rogers) cell phone unblocked in Canada. Bought a SIM carte for the largest phone network Orange at Nice Airport. This is the Orange holiday 120 minutes, 1000 texts + 1GB; 39.99. Easy. With the SIM comes a package with instructions for activation. [www.orange.fr]. The number you get has some zeros somewhere, in France use only the number; outside plus 0033 (France), or elsewhere in Europe 00(country code), then number.
Top up coupon Mobicarte available anywhere from super market, newsstand, or Orange agent. Same as in Canada. I buy €25 and get €8 bonus, for example. Recently changed my Orange SIM for another – La Post Mobile, they start €9.99, gives you so many minutes, and messages. Cheapest are messages, calls expensive. Across the border from France to Italy, my cell phone network stops, Orange will switch to some Italian network, La Poste Mobile, not.

Food, Groceries, Markets

Compared to our Canadian prices, regular food items are cheaper. Because we import all the good things. Therefore, it is always a good idea to rent a place with a small kitchen. Find a super market somewhere. Here in Cannes there are several large open air markets daily from early to noon, for all foods and flowers. I found – because of the late season, November – I was better off to buy in the super market, as fresh markets are more expensive. Super markets not much choice in fresh fruits, vegetables.
Wines are also very cheap, can buy in any super market. Don’t forget bring your own bags. No plastic bags free.

Restaurants, Cafes

Comparable, can be expensive, because of the service cost. In four months in Europe I maybe go once into a restaurant. I cook my own meals. Here it is common to eat out lunch in a restaurant, lots of seafood. Cafe is different. Being so close to Italy, fine caffees are standard, a tiny espresso cost €1.40, cappuccino cost around €3.50.
Cafe/brasserie during the day culture, watch out as a single woman. Mostly men sitting around, lots of smokers (though confined to outside, but still). Wait your sweet time for service. I wait 8 minutes, then leave. Yesterday, went to another Cafe, in French ask them if they serve women and tourists. This server came over so quick. All prices in Europe including taxes !

Transportation

Cannes has a good public transportation system: the Palm Bus. [palmbus.fr]  Network plans, individual line plans with times and variety of schedules available also at Palm Bus sales centres, City center, and tourist information. Buses cover the entire region of Cannes and outlying other towns. It is a vaste network, extending over an area of multiple hours travel time. Cost one trip (which incl. transfers) €1.30; ticket of ten cost €10. Useful about the individual schedules is that they can also serve as area maps and plans. As the regular (online) and available here ‘circuit pédestre’ plan is not all inclusive and detailed enough. Most useful is the big Palm Bus map ‘plan du réseau’ showing all bus lines and lots of information. Then the trains (SNCF train station city centre) best of all, get you anywhere fast. [TERpaca.fr; TER=Transport Express Regional). As I rent near the historical Centre Le Suquet, the center, La Croisette, most shopping areas are easily reachable by foot.

Most important the connections between Cannes and Nice Airport

How to get to Nice if your flight from Nice Airport is too early for the regular Express bus from Cannes ?  Taxi from Cannes ?  Not for me, I avoid taxis wherever I am (despite no language problem whatsoever).  Taxi one way Cannes to Nice Airport at least EUR90. Better : SNCF train Cannes train station earliest train 05:17,  stops Nice St Augustine station, very near to the airport (500m).  Then Taxi. $10 train, plus Taxi. Not so bad ! More on Nice [ http://wikitravel.org/en/Nice ]. Link to a comprehensive website [ http://www.seat61.com/Europe-train-travel.htm#Do_I_need_to_check-in_for_a_train ] about all sorts of trains and many practical tips. WRONG is: “tickets will be checked on the train.” Not so.Throughout the SNCF France region (or even elsewhere), before boarding the train, the ticket must be validated in a small machine, which prints the leaving train station and the time of day. Ad-hoc controls on the train (in 2 months only once).

Swimming Pools

For me important. During winter season, most public indoor pools are closed, except La Piscine at Parc Montfleury. It is a large, bright pool with five double (25m) swim lanes, a shallow warm pool and one for small kids. No chlorinated water. Single admission €5.10, also reduced rates. Lockers cost extra. This is a mixed pool for men and women, also in the dressing areas and showers. Life guards on duty. These pools are operated by the City of Cannes. Extremely clean. The Parc Montfleury is also known for its six outdoor tennis courts.

Shopping

The entire length of Cannes and surroundings parallel to the Mediterranean is one big shopping area. With Boulevard La Croisette, and the Rue d’Antibes famous for its many high class and luxury items’ stores. As is Rue Felix Faure. With Rue Meynardier and its narrow historical streets offering the lower priced items.

Safety, Security

Since the terrorist attacks November 13, 2015 in Paris  – not safe anywhere anymore, in Europe or particularly France. I would not go out after dark, not even to the super market. Although Cannes is pretty safe and street lighting everywhere. Just, not hang out anywhere where large numbers of people are. Police and armed Military mainly around train stations, airports, and boulevards with large numbers of holiday shoppers. My next train trip will be from Cannes to Marseille, only a two hour ride.

more travel tips

Besides worry about what clothes to take ** – being that carry on and other luggage is now severely limited – the most important item when traveling is still the passport. Without passport you cannot get anywhere easily. Example of compromised passport: During the sixties we spent each summer vacation in Italy with the family. Once while boating on the Garda Lake, Northern Italy, my friend lost his passport in the lake – slipped out of his back pocket together with wallet and drivers license. Difficult situation to resolve, there was no proof of passport documention. I personally always take with me a copy of my passport (outside pages, couple of inside pages with picture). Not that I have lost my passport, but I have used the copied pages many times, when in certain countries where even a passport is required to get some foreign currency in a bank. The copy of my passport was accepted.
Credit cards. I also always take copies of my cards with me, in case of loss or theft, for proof at a Bank or Police.
The other important gadget is a small LED flashlight. Also needed many times when in a country where power outages occur. Especially couple times in Mexico, where night comes early and fast. Besides that, also a small radio. Usually I buy a new one in any of the continents I travel, because those do not last long. Good for local news and keeping up with the language of that particular country. OTHER gadgets I always take: Mini KC Pro travel tool kit; my Swiss Army knife; mini (credit card size) OptiCard (magnifier/light)  [some items go into check-in luggage].

CLOTHING. When leaving Canada it it always cold, and therefore  when leaving I wear multiple layers of clothing, that I need again when returning to Canada. No need to pack in any suit case.
** clothes – easily can be bought anywhere in the world in second-hand stores

TRAVEL SOLO AS A WOMAN

Second instalment to my first blog on WOMEN TRAVELLING SOLO. https://renataveritashistory.com/2013/03/04/female-solo-travel/

Food for Thought: In the 19th and into the 20th century, a woman traveling alone would be considered having questionable morals. Today – the opposite, a single woman traveling with men may be looked upon as having questionable morals, unless they are family or friends.

I STRONGLY BELIEVE IN TRAVEL & LEARN.

Tips on how to handle situations in which country, and which countries are safe, which ones to be more careful in:

Central Europe – no problem, all Western continental countries including the U.K. pretty safe. Always useful to speak several languages, to get services at more decent prices. Taxis maybe a different thing. Since I mostly use the train to get me through most countries comfortably, there is no need to worry about being ripped off. Often, the big national train services have temporary specials on to buy low-price tickets. Most trains in most of those countries are also fitted now to handle physically handicapped persons. Overnight trains – traveling alone – I would be more careful.

Once you leave the main European continent, to travel to Africa, North Africa, just be more alert. The Maghreb countries – I did not find difficult at all. Taxi drivers tend to want to drive you around, even if you specify a fixed location. If you speak French (or Arabic) tell them you are already a guest in their country for weeks, no need to see this and that, “just get me to my destination”. Often cab fares are negotiable, as well.

My life was at stake only couple of times, when I was young, hitch hiking – even in my own country then.

In all those many years living, working and travelling in all sorts of countries, I only really were attacked once physically – in Rotterdam NL. But that was late in the evening. My own fault. [NOTE. I can only comment here on North America, Central America, Europe, Eastern (Soviet) Block countries (then), St. Petersbourg (recently), Scandinavia.] All went well.

In general I must say, that I am safer now when traveling alone, compared to when I was young.

HAPPY TRAVELING !  [post created with Firefox v.19]

FEMALE SOLO TRAVEL

Food for Thought: In the 19th and into the 20th century, a woman traveling alone would be considered having questionable morals. Today – the opposite, a woman traveling with men may be looked upon as having questionable morals. I STRONGLY BELIEVE IN TRAVEL & LEARN.

ADDENDUM March 27/13, Taxi services.  On occasion when it’s necessary I use a cab. For example, when arriving late in an unknown place, unknown country. Even once arriving Flughafen Tegel Airport Berlin, to negotiate the trip to my rental building. One amusing story about this cab driving: Arriving in Mexico last year for an extended visit at Aeropuerto Pto. Vallarta late in the evening. In Mexico it is dark at seven each night, and dark meaning within couple of minutes. I arrived late and usually one has to cross the highway overpass to the other side of the Airport exit to catch a cab. But cabs stood ready right by the exit. They also have fixed rates. To Sayulita (m/l one hour north) it’s 50 US$. The cab drivers work with an organization at the airport whom they must also pay, and usually cannot take less than this rate. But I like to haggle, and offered 40 dollars. To a young Mexican driver. Off we went. I was apprehensive, being alone, sitting in the back seat. The trip takes you to pretty isolated little villages and largely through jungle both sides of the road. Plus despite my maps that I had prepared beforehand, I could not see a thing in the dark. Shortly before the turnoff to Sayulita the driver stopped at a shopping centre (OXO – the largest grocery chain and open all night) said he needed some money from the ATM machine to buy some gas. If I want to do some grocery shopping there? NO. I stuck to my rear seat, and would have never got out of this car. That’s how paranoid I was. He found this amusing. Well, we made it to Sayulita, trying to find this rental Casa compound uphill. The gate was locked and there was a security lock which needed a code. By that time it was after 9 pm. Luckily, the young man could phone on his cell phone the owners from the papers I had on me – who just happened to have visited their property from California – and they gave me the entry code. This young Mexican cab driver was so nice and helpful, he helped to carry my two small suitcases up the steep hill to my casita (apartment). So, I gave him some more money. This whole thing again proves, that often when we are worried travelling alone, there is no need for it. In fact, the opposite. More people are helpful than people want to hurt you.

For the first morning following arrival after a long flight, I always carry with me instant coffee, tea, dry food to at least have a breakfast. When arriving in a certain country, be it in North America, Central America, or anywhere in Europe, the next day after arrival I find the local grocery stores and within a short time the best deals to buy food. Prices vary considerably from grocer to grocer, depending where. Even in Saint Petersburg, Russia, – in that case I took a group travel, with a guide, because the city is a treasure trove full of culture and palaces and buildings. A guide is a must. We stayed in the largest hotel, the Moskwa – it is huge. Next door was a big underground grocery store, where you could buy groceries and water for your evening suppers. Cheap. And St. Petersburg is one of the more expensive cities. Food is usually safe, water watch out. Some larger world-class cities have clean water (eg. Marrakech, Maroc), some do not. Europe’s water is always safe to drink, Mexico not. Just be careful.

Luggage. I usually only take two small carry-on suit cases, one as cabin baggage, one for checkout. Easier to handle when moving, no need for renting cars or cabs.

What I pack: most importantly electronic equipment, cables, power adapters, camera stuff with charger, phone, my net book, memory sticks for data backups, and important vitamins and prescription medication (which in most countries are not so easy to find or if, then expensive). The most necessary are pain killers, celebrex, and for skin problem, if any, and whatever anybody needs for their own medical reasons (not forget the intestinal). What else I found is expensive to buy are herbs and spices – since I do my own cooking. The minimum I take with me is a small black pepper mill, and mixed herbs for Italian cooking. Clothes – not many. Only one pair extra shoes, because they are expensive to buy. Clothing in any country anywhere in the world is easy enough to buy second hand, if needed. Since I arrive from a colder country (Canada) it is always easier for me to wear layers of clothes when leaving, carry them through the airport controls, and same when arriving back. Leaves me with a few light clothes and the most necessities. My Tilly vest has so many pockets, I always wear as one of the layers when leaving and returning, holds my passport, important documents, money belt, glasses, shades, small tooth cleaning kit, bandages, pen, a few maps. And of course, couple of canvas bags for groceries’ shopping. I usually wash laundry daily where I rent on vacation. Two things I learned: (a) each time I travel, I carry less; (b) I can pack in 15 minutes for a 3 months trip.

I try to avoid renting a taxi. Because as a woman alone, it is not safe in some locales. One looses control. And misses a lot of wonderful sights when stuffed inside a taxi cab. [note my story Sayulita taxi above]

Public transportation: I always before leaving my home research very thoroughly the public transportation system of the country to which I travel. Starting with a map of the airport (arrival), where to go to find the nearest bus station after arrival. Funny example: Spain, Alicante. I had all the information necessary to get out and get onto the bus. Upon arrival, hundreds of European travelers hanging out in the arrivals hall, trying to rent a car (expensive). The local bus was only €3 to get to Alicante, to my hotel. And fast, in couple of minutes I was out and on the bus.

Being alone, I also avoid to go out after dark. In all those years I had never experienced an attack in a city, no matter where. The odd time one looses something (theft), but I found it was always my fault.

Usually I choose a town or city as a base, from where to make trips. Mostly using the local bus system, or of course the trains (especially in Europe). Or a boat. Whatever. Mostly I walk.

Most importantly: I mix with the locals, using their language. With 4 to 5 languages, I never had a problem to get along. This cannot be emphasized enough.

Example: Saint Martin, Caribbean Islands, French. I walked, got stuck somewhere, needed a ride, found a nice local lady who drove me, I only had so many Fr. Francs in my pocket, which she accepted. When arriving back at the resort, the American tourists complained about the extreme cab prices.

I avoid too touristy spots. And if possible of course large gatherings of people. There were times I found myself in dangerous situations – as far as terrorist activity.

Destinations: Of course everybody has their own preferences. But I have chosen, not to visit countries which have a poor human rights record. Moreover, countries who mistreat their women, or do not show them the respect they deserve. Mainly countries where rape is not a crime, but has become a pastime. Likewise, I avoid travel to countries which mistreat wildlife and trade in wildlife parts on markets.

HAPPY TRAVELING !  [post created with Firefox v.19]