Casey’s Top 10: European Transportation (Part 1 of 2)

So far we have taken planes, trains, metro, buses, car rentals, taxis, ferries, four wheelers, bikes and walked around the cities we have visited. One thing that most people tend to agree with is that the act of traveling generally sucks and is the worst part of doing a long term trip like this. Going into this trip, Meghan and I really didn’t know what to expect in terms of transportation (which would be the most expensive, the most convenient,etc), so in this series I’m going to break it down by which modes of transportation suck the most and which ones sucked the least. Ranked 10 (suckiest) to 1 (least suckiest).

10. Taxis –

Far and away taxis in Europe have been the worst mode of transportation for us. They are difficult to find, difficult to hail, difficult to understand the pricing, expensive, some of the drivers have been rude and overall it’s been a terrible experience (and this coming from two New Yorkers who have used our fair share of taxis). This includes ride hailing apps like Uber, MyTaxi and Hailo. Uber has been ok, but it isn’t as widely used in Europe as we had hoped, and it’s actually banned in parts of Spain. MyTaxi has been the worst experience everrrrrrrr. (Quick story, the app told us it would cost $20 to get to the beach in Valencia, which was already expensive, but we thought it would be worth it. By the time we got to the beach it was a $60 tab, and we still had to take it back, which meant we spent $120 that day. Eff that.)

I know people may think taxis are generally easy and perfectly fine, and sure we haven’t used them that often because of our budgeting, but the times that we have splurged on a cab it’s been a bad experience. It’s difficult to communicate with the driver (our fault for not speaking the language), we’ve wound up in the wrong place or overpaid, and in most cases public transit is quicker than them.

9. Walking –

Coming from New York City I generally enjoy walking to get place to place. That hasn’t really changed in Europe – I love exploring new cities by foot. What I’m talking about here though, is walking on a travel day- which means a day we are going to a new city- which means a day I have a 20 pound bag on my back and a 10 pound daypack in my hand- which means Meghan is miserable, which means I am in turn, miserable.

When it is 85+ degrees outside and I’m carrying around a backpack full of crap, not knowing where I’m going and Meghan knows I don’t know where I’m going, I would imagine that is as close to hell on earth as it gets. I don’t think it would be any better either with roller bags as most of the streets in Europe are cobblestone so you would probably even worse off dragging something behind you.

8. Car Rentals –

First off, unless you can drive a manual transmission, car rentals in Europe are pretty expensive. That’s a part of why I ranked it so high, but not the tip of the iceberg for me on why I didn’t love renting a car on our trip. 

All of the cars here are manual. Meghan doesn’t drive manual. I don’t drive manual. And because of that, we have to pay a ton more to get automatic. (I’m talking the difference between $7 a day and $30).

We also had to pay a bunch of hidden fees with our car rental (don’t rent through OK-Rent-a-Car), which really added to the negative experience we had.

Something to keep in mind if you decide to rent a car… when driving in Europe, most cities are filled with roundabouts instead of stop lights or stop signs. It is basically controlled chaos. Think of the casual roundabout in your home town and how pleasant it is to go around and around. Now think of that in downtown Chicago with a hundred cars all weaving in and out of it, adding in motorcycles driving between cars. Hell.

To top all of that off everything is in kilometers so we never had any idea how far away things were, how fast we were going or how many kilometers our little Fiat 500 got to the liter.

7. Airplanes –

Not a big fan of airplanes here. Mostly because adding in the commute to the airport, security and waiting to board & take-off, it actually takes more time than it would to just take a bus/train, and then add in the fact that people here are irrational psychos when it comes to flying. I kid you not people start lining up for their flights an hour before take-off. What planet are they on where that is necessary?

Adding to that,  YOU HAVE TO TAKE A BUS from the terminal to the plane. So even if you’re first in line to board the plane, you still have to wait in a damn bus until every other passenger has been loaded on and then you drive to the plane. So in theory, being first in line means absolutely NOTHING. It drives me crazy.

6. Buses –

I cannot figure out buses for the life of me. Bus stations are terrifying enough when I speak the language and I know what’s going on, but in Europe, the routes are confusing, no one speaks English (again, my issue) and the buses are rarely on time. By the time I figure out which bus to take, it’s too late and it’s driving away.

To make matters worse there is never WiFi in a bus station so we can never pull up our tickets or read directions for the routes. It also feels like the A/C never works on buses, the bathroom always stinks up the bus, people eat the noisiest/smelliest food ever. 

Part 2 coming tomorrow…

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