Travel by Train, It Makes Sense

virginWhen traveling in another country, you may not have the luxury of taking a car and just going. Cars can be rented, but can be more costly in the UK and Europe to rent and run. Of course you can have fun driving on the left side of the road, or maybe find a place in Germany that rents American Muscle Cars and drive the Autobahn (always a bucket list item). Trouble is that renting a motorcar in the UK or Europe is very expensive and you may return from your trip with additional costs for a slight car ding ranging in the £€ 1,000.00 2,000.00 range. Yes, even if you buy insurance, there will be some additional costs, and petrol is very high in Europe. So often a train ride is a better option. And trains can be fun, especially if you can get on a historic one. Many of the train options are for diesel or electric and some are well cared for, and some are not. But you need to get where you are going, and travel bus is not for everyone.

Scotland

Hogwarts Express – Scotland The Jacobite Express First Class £ 59.00 £ 35.00 standard return.

http://www.westcoastrailways.co.uk/

This iconic train is booked well in advance as you can imagine. I couldn’t get it for my dates. If you are a train lover, start planning your vacation around the trains and trips months in advance. This train encompasses the Glenfinnan viaduct, Arisaig, Mallaig, Fort William areas and is a great trip across the Highlands and on a clear day you can see many of the islands from the shores. Their’s full tea service as well, and you know how fun it is to take tea on a classic train.

If you want to see Hogwart’s locations, head to University of Glasgow, and Edinburgh’s streets.

The Flying Scotsman

http://www.flyingscotsman.org.uk/ Site is very image intensive

To book, go to this site http://www.railwaytouring.net/

This train recently started touring again and has been quite a hit. However there was a performance safety issue this last season and you need to check if it is running again on the http://www.railwaytouring.net/ site. It’s a classic good run on a restored train, so keep an  eye out while you make your tour plans this season to see if you can catch a ride.

Scotrail

Luckily, Scotrail was not on strike action this season, like it had been the summer before. The trains had showed it and I had been rerouted by bus at least once on that trip. This trip, 2017, was smooth sailing, except when I was stranded in Kyle of Lochalsh due to rocks falling on the tracks for 2 hours with a cancelled train. The rest of the trip, the trains ran on time for the most part and were cleaner than the previous year. Of course going through the Highlands is always breathtaking so it was worth the trip. Great conversations with fellow travelers.

Virgin Trains The Highland Chieftain

On my final rail around the Highlands for the 2017 tour, I got a real sweet deal on Virgin Trains for a first class in the quiet car at just a few pounds more than 2nd class. A bump of £ 4.00 per seat got me on a single side seat facing the Eastern Coast of Scotland down to Edinburgh. Very smooth ride and great scenery of Stirling and all places in between. It was a bittersweet farewell to the Highlands, but a really fabulous experience. If you time your ticket right, in the middle of the week and mid to late morning, the price is fair. The only problem was one car had no WiFi working or any of the charging ports for phones and people kept coming into our car. It wasn’t really a problem as it was half full and you get to meet more people that way. Wait, it was supposed to be a quiet car, right? But most were pretty good about it. A very good trip all round on that one.

Ireland € 16.00 -30.00

Irish Rail http://www.irishrail.ie/

Traveling in Ireland this summer I spent time on some very clean trains that kept good time. I was lucky on the two trips I had to make, plenty of room and easy storage for my cases, cars were clean and comfortable. I had booked a month in advance and got very good pricing. It was under € 20.00 to get to Galway and the return trip on to Belfast was under € 30.00. Considering the high cost of being in Dublin for 4 days, it was helpful on the budget to get the tickets in advance and pick up at the kiosks. Smooth rides on both trips.

The trip to Galway was filled with amazing green fields, passing through Athlone, the true countryside of Ireland. And there is a reason it’s called the Emerald Isle, it’s amazingly green even in the high summer. It was a record high temperature week when I was there, but the trains were comfortable and clean. Conversation was good, and trains always provide an opportunity to talk with local people about where they live and what is going on in their lives. And the Irish love to talk about their lives and where they live, and great deal about politics

But Can the Train Get Me to Where I Want to Go?

In some cases, you can take trains to some of the national parks in countries, or take a link ride with a bus. Sadly this will cut into some of your travel time and limit some places you can get to. If you have a car you can tour the Highlands for better access, get closer to a Munro for that great climb. However cars make you take on big responsibilities in other countries. Please take the time to familiarize yourself with the country’s driving laws and customs for driving country roads. Many tourists do not get the right of way on one lanes in Scotland and the rest of the UK much to the chagrin of locals. When in doubt, always err on the side of letting others pass. Then there are the smaller roads like coffin roads on some of the isles. You can get really lost on an island. In many cases, such as Isle of Skye, too many tourists are renting cars and not parking with care. Skye is boggy and loamy right off the road and if you get in the mire, the car will sink. Getting it pulled is very costly.

Walking and Hiking Tours

Really want to tour the countries and get to know them? Then walking tours and climbing in parks may be your best bet. Many of these can be accessed by public transport and many back packers go this route. It can take a bit longer to get somewhere, but is well worth it. Try joining some of the hiking and walking boards for the country you are visiting. You can check on the best climbs for a novice or find out about roadworks and diversions for trails. Most large cities like Dublin and Glasgow have rail to bus link services, it will take more time but it can be done.

https://www.walkhighlands.co.uk/

http://www.theirelandwalkingguide.com/

http://www.walkingbritain.co.uk/

Train Touring Companies

http://www.railwaytouring.net/

https://www.vacationsbyrail.com/europe/ireland

https://www.steamtrainsireland.com/whats-on

Irish Rail Strikes

http://www.irishmirror.ie/news/irish-news/every-public-transport-disruption-you-11419344

 

5 Return Flights from Glasgow for under £100 — Caitlin Jean Russell

If you’re looking for a last minute trip to book from Glasgow, then there’s ten countries in Europe that you can fly direct return from this month (July 2017). Using Skyscanner.com I’ve collated a list of five European locations where you can fly for up to and including £100, but if you want to see the…

via 5 Return Flights from Glasgow for under £100 — Caitlin Jean Russell

Americans Are Not The Only Annoying Travelers, and Other Musings

C9B37BCF-8421-41F5-8796-03EE44B59278I’ve just read through several ,”What Not To Do”, articles for traveling in Europe. I have to say that I know most of what is being said as true, Americans can be so annoying. I spend most of my traveling sitting and hearing other annoyed travelers going off about things. I keep my mouth shut, cringe at most things, get off a bus and find a place to just have a good laugh. Really, what saddens me is that people spend so much time and money to travel, that they waste time complaining about the most ridiculous things. Yeah, the airlines misplaced my luggage last year, so there are some things that can really mess with your trip. However, there are bombings going on. Some of what you are complaining about is really trivial in the greater scheme of things.

Oh, and I do realize that the people of Ireland and the UK shouldn’t be considered Europeans unless they decide to be. People are from their countries, and have cultures quite their own.

In the summer of 2016, I spent a few weeks traveling in Scotland. Of course with my luck, both the Clockwork Orange and Scotrail were not running, one with improvements, the other with strike actions. When I was heading back to Glasgow from Oban, we were rerouted on a luxury tour bus. Could have been worse. I actually got the tour bus free, didn’t have to pay £100.00 for the trip. But from the minute I stepped in the Oban train station, I heard that classic, 60 plus year old woman’s, greater London accent on a dirge of sarcasm voice. I stared at the wall, the suitcase, anything to keep my face still and silent. I love a good sarcastic rant as much as anyone, but she didn’t know when to stop.

The bloody Scots can’t keep a train going. It’s a good thing Teresa May has just got in, she’ll sort this. We’ve paid good money…

I’m sure some similar conversation was happening on the East Coast of the US, somewhere about changes afoot, the state of traffic.

To give you some context, Brexit stage 1 had just happened, and May had just entered into office. The husband of the woman said nothing the next two hours of highlands travels around Loch Lommond and down Glasgow way. Probably best, he pretended sleep I think. I tried not to grind my teeth, put the music on. Listened to the Gaelic being spoken, imagining some of it was commentary on the “woman”. I fantasized for about 20 minutes out from Glasgow about the bus driver being overcome by the passengers, and the woman being put out. Then I though the bus driver might just do it himself, without any encouragement. Bus drivers are only so patient.

Two days later in the West End of Glasgow, I was sitting in a eatery and having an Americano, I made the mistake of being friendly with the Brit next to me. Honestly, I was wondering what had happened with the Brits I was meeting, it must be this Brexit thing? True, any one I met from the north (Liverpool and such) seemed just fine. I had had great encounters all over Scotland with Scottish people. I could just turn to a stranger, smiling and a conversation would just happen. The Scots are just so happy about their country and proud of living there, always a fun conversation on just about anything. I Just avoided talking about politics unless it was brought up. But when faced with a Brit in that age range of 55 to 65 last summer, from the south, it was utter sheer annoyance that I dared to talk to them. Sadly, it got to the point where I just listened to people before uttering a word, and well you know we Americans just smile too much, tried to look aloof instead.

Guess it was the summer of malcontent both sides of the pond. Was it the age group?

Traveling This Year 

I am a bit apprehensive about this past year and political events coloring tourism for me on this trip. I love traveling and meeting people, hearing about their lives if they care to share experiences with a stranger. I try not to be offensive, and I really do not consider myself as typical American tourist. I come from Northern California, not LA. Please don’t lump me in. I’ll try not to stand there in pure wonder over a geographical location or castle with mouth hanging open. But really, shouldn’t the locals enjoy such things and still wonder at them? I am just happy to see any of it still standing, given acid rain and all.  With recent terrorist actions, can’t we all just embrace one another? Smile?

I wonder how it will be after the recent American elections fiasco and political atmosphere? Will people think I voted for current government, I can assure you I didn’t. I am a non violent person and try to respect other people’s rights and countries, and assume that I DON’T know everything. Hate to have to go around and not talk to anyone.

Don’t Go On About Your Ancestry. It is Assumed That’s Why You Are There.

Yes, I will be really be spending time in Ireland this year, and work really hard to not be annoying and ask really stupid things. Yes, the Irish went everywhere and much of the US population does have a drop or two of the blood in us. Quite a bit on my mother’s side. Can you blame me for wanting to see the country? It’s been on the bucket list for years. So was Scotland, for the same reason. I am going back this year because Scotland just has so much depth, I barely scratched the surface on the last visit. It told me to come back. But no, I will not be silly and fake an accent. Why would I insult someone? I’m going because I stood with feet on the ground last year for 3 hours and smelled the air in Ireland. It told me I was home, why are you leaving?

I come from California, but I am not LA. So I think I know a little bit about being type cast. I am hoping that if I talk to people, kindred spirits will pop up and a solidarity of humanity will prevail. There’s enough going wrong in all our countries, and many people are displaced and seeking asylum. How about some solidarity and familiarity? Oh, and I promise I very rarely use the word “awesome”, and I cringe at the words “awsome sauce”. There are so many better words to be used in this world.

My Travel Thoughts This Trip

1. Last year I did indeed go to that country where one of my favorite tele series is filmed. I did not fan girl once or mention it to anyone at all. I went to visit the country and people.

2. I am contemplating bringing my MacCallum kilted skirt and wether to wear it in Scotland. Would love to have annoying Americans come up and start talking to me and see what happens. Honestly though, I wear the thing all winter here in Portland, and well summer too sometimes because well, it’s Portland. We wear kilts. We wear anything for that matter. Oh, and the women’s is not a kilt, true kilt is worn on the right and much deeper pleats (filleadh beag). And more women are opting for bespoke men’s kilts these days. Break that stereotype.

Think I could get away with it?

Travel Insurance, The Necessary Evil

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Getting ready for the trip in two months, I had to do the reality check on mortality and everything else that is taken for granted in your home country. That’s right, the whether to buy a vacation insurance package or not for your upcoming trip. What could really go wrong on a trip you have planned on for months. Just about everything.

Flight Insurance

Yep, your flight you have booked for months can get cancelled. Granted, airlines are responsible to a degree to get you on another flight, but if it ends up being on another airlines so you can make a connecting flight, you may have to haggle to not pay a difference in ticket costs. Demand that the airlines cover this of course, but there may be a different story at the other ticket counter and you will have to eat it until you can get the airlines to reimburse you. Or, make a claim on the flight insurance you hopefully bought. Since I got my tickets at a steal last fall, I am only covered for the $876.39. That’s the trip cancellation. Trip interruption, caused by airline having to rebook flight, is about $1,300.00. Considering that will probably be what it would take to book a flight suddenly, I may eventually not be at a loss.

Baggage Loss

I call it loss. It’s lost until you find it. And sometimes you can’t find it. Airlines call it misplaced or some other marketing name that doesn’t seem so disastrous. It’s still a disaster to you. Sad thing is the insurance companies will barely cover $1000.00 of loss. That doesn’t cover the laptop you will be forced to put in your luggage now, much less the clothing. You will need to shop around for travel insurance that covers your losses with luggage. And make sure it does not exclude electronics. Electronics like an iPad fall under the luggage category and many insurance carriers require you have the original receipts for your items. I have no clue where those are. I used to keep every single receipt, of course now that I need it… The baggage loss for overseas is not covered by federal regulations. So I am lucky I get $750.00. That will barely cover a iPad that I don’t have original receipts for. Wait, I bought that at Apple, I could bother their customer service to help me research back 3 years, right?

Laptop Travel Ban Expansion Imminent

Search Me? New Travel Restrictions, Customs Searches, and Your Mobile Phone

Medical

Sadly in the US, we still don’t really have socialized medical care. And our company issued insurance will do anything to not cover any claim. It certainly won’t cover you when in another country, and it’s a battle if you are in another state to get coverage if you get in an accident. Research the medical coverage portion of the policy you are buying. The policy I have covers $50k, and EMC and Transport to hospital is $25K. This may cover a small portion of a hospital stay and won’t cover any operations that may ensue. If you are in a socialized country, you will receive treatment but they will still come after you for a bill. If you are in a EU country and from another EU country, some things will be covered, but not all. I would advise trying to bump the insurance coverage up to $100k if you can. You may need to get a supplemental plan when traveling.

Mortality

I just called the policyholder today and informed them of my beneficiaries name for the accidental death coverage. Good thing I thought of it. It’s easy to not think about death when you are on the vacation you’ve waited months for. What, “I am inflatable” you think. Think again.

No one likes to think of their demise happening when you finally get on that trip. But it does happen. From the minute I get off the plane in a country that is left hand drive, I start self talking the “Look to the right” for cars immediately. Unfortunately, tourists do die while away from home. Could be traffic, could be a mugging gone wrong. Or your health gives out with a heart attack. Then your loved ones are left with the impossible task of getting your remains back to home. I have read articles of family and friends having to run crowdfunding campaigns just to bring a body home. It’s not just a simple matter of getting a plane ticket for a body. Each country has their laws for the transport of a body on planes and trains. There are fees. I have read that it can cost upwards of $5000.00 just to bring a body back. Got life insurance back home. It may cover just the loss of your life, the income loss to family. It will not cover transport costs. Will the $50k really cover my life? I have other life insurance, but there is probably some fine print about being in another country.

Read the accidental death coverage for the insurance, and any fine print.

Who to Go With

I chose the the insurance company preferred by the airline. Probably a mistake, but looking at all the other choices was getting to be a chore. I am not taking equipment with me. That is when you really need to pay attention. If you are really into your camera or are a professional film crew, of course you have to go with industry standard insurance coverage if you can get it. Your average person used to be able to carry cameras and laptops in carry on and I would still recommend that you do. However TSA rules are changing due to terrorism threats, laptops and electronics being the place to conceal explosives now. And you should lock your carry on luggage for when you have to use the toilets, the can get riffled through on a flight in the overhead.

So, who do you go with for coverage? The one that is offered at ticket checkout may cover your very basic needs. However, if you have the time, do a little research on reviews and complaints against carriers. Make sure you get and print out your Policy Confirmation Letter. Make sure you make 2 copies, one you will have with your other travel plans folder and the one you leave with your beneficiary of the life insurance. Do a specific quirk search on each travel insurance company, and search for complaints against them.

Further Reading
http://www.travelinsurancereview.net/faqs/does-travel-insurance-cover-laptops-and-tablets/
http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/2012/06/do-you-need-travel-insurance/index.htm
http://lifehacker.com/do-i-really-need-to-buy-travel-insurance-1674681487
https://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/credit-cards/credit-cards-offer-lost-baggage-insurance/

Travel and Transport Strikes: Irish and UK Strike Actions

2481070295_9f838571bb_bSome travelers just have the luck, eh? Last summer in 2016 I had to work around rail strike actions in Scotland. ScotRail was pretty good about finding solutions for when an action took place last July and I got stranded briefly in Oban, ended up on luxury coach instead. Interesting change in plans that was. Saw Loch Lomond on a luxury coach I didn’t pay extra for. Oh, and the Clockwork Orange tube in Glasgow was being worked on as well, so I just lucked out on missing that fun underground and picking random neighborhoods to pop up into. I will be back this summer and remedy that. 

Bus and Train Strikes in Ireland and UK This Spring

This season, I plan on the loop to Ireland being a serious treat. However, it looks like the mass transit concerns of Ireland have been threatening a strike action for the last few weeks. You wonder why the concern? Well listen up. Ireland and the UK have union actions that may not just involve the union that has the call to strike out. Sisterhood and solidarity abound in this region and that means that other related unions may wish to go out on strike action for in support. So if the bus lines of Ireland strike, it is possible that railways will be affected. In the US we have seen a heavy decline in unions in the last decade. A call to action happens less frequently, and with our heavy use of cars here in the United States, transit strikes can be avoided more readily than in the UK and Ireland, where car ownership is a very costly affair and frankly better transit services than the US exist so a great many use it. Add to the fact you are in the tourist and festival season, and you can expect delays. The Irish bust company, Bus Éireann, is in it’s fifth day of strikes. Dublin bus is threatening to follow suit and so is Irish Rail.

So what do you do if you are planning a trip and need to use bus/train/ferries and want to book in advance due to heavy travel from tourists? You should still plan on booking via computer or app a few weeks out to guarantee seats. There are usually some walk on pay-as-you go seats, but this can be really hampered if you are going during festival week. If your train you have booked and paid in advance for, and a strike action takes place, you can either get a refund or there will be provided alternatives. Read the local papers and check the website frequently of the railways and bus lines. Latest news will be posted. Need to check into a hotel later than usual, most of the time you can just call. This becomes a bit dicey if you have rented on AirBNB or other sublet/service apartments, since you usually have to arrange pickup of a key.

You can always look at it as experiencing real life along with the people whose culture you are visiting. Really in the great scheme of things, these are trivial compared to some other more exotic locations where transport can be really interesting at best. If it happens in the UK or Ireland, there is always a watering hole around to hang out in and commiserate with others.

Articles

Ireland

Irish Rail May Join Action

Bus Talks

UK

UK Rail Strikes this year 2017

Rail Strikes this Weekend


Connolly Station Photography by William Murphy at Flicr

Free or Close To it Travel Budget Things UK and Ireland: Tours and Just-Do-Its

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Yeah, traveling is very expensive. Get to the fair city of your choice and the € £ amounts just go up. So how do you budget to get the most out of your budget? Food is always going to get you if you do the restaurant thing, and well that’s why foodies travel, and high priced tours for cities and surrounding areas might get you empty pockets quick using all your daily spending cash in 2 hours. Not so good. So food and entertainment for next to nothing, that’s the ticket.

Walking and Transit

Walking every city you go to and/or using public transit will help keep the budget down. Visit travel websites and check out any free tours listed there, then maybe the ratings check out is good. Not everyone has your tastes. I try to find articles by locals who actually go on the tour, to get their feedback. I also find the hotel map approach works well. Take that free map and fold it in quarters. Find out what is free to do in each city and area and make a list. If there is an attraction that will suck up some money, pick one per day and the rest must be free. This way you don’t feel like you have paid huge sums for plan flight but can’t afford to do anything. Check for the local “mommie” lists online, the free things to take kids to. Some of these are just as fun for adults, we are all ages 10 to 13 really.

Tours, to Tour or Not to Tour

Some cities you tour may have people who give tours on a pay-what-you-like basis. This is usually someone who is local and may even donate some proceeds to charity. This also means it’s not a grand tour bus, public transit. But wouldn’t it be great to see how people there really enjoy their city? It may be a no frills tour, but think about how much you may really see. If you would like to travel outside of the city and can’t afford the high car rentals, a tour to castles and historical sites may be the best bargain, but again look for reviews. Remember, if you can find a smaller more personal tour situation, it may be worth the extra £ 20.00 as the larger tour companies are over crowded and well, there are a lot of people.

Now, I tend to be lone wolf on my travels. I really don’t like being glommed on as a tourist with it being quite obvious that I am one. Try as you might, locals will spot you for miles. I find locals won’t bother with you if you scream of tourist. But small, local tours are not huge, with like 50 people in tow where people can see you coming for a mile, and really you are out with people just hanging out. Also, if you like keeping up with being fit, try a bike tour.

Children in Tow, Make them Lead the Way

Got kids traveling with you? Teach them how to budget, put them in charge of researching all the free things they can do in the city you are visiting. Kids will fidget  and complain or just plain sulk if they don’t have things to get them busy. Put them in charge. Of course this means monitoring and having final say, but challenging them to find out how much they can see in an area and things that would actually interest them can be a great activity and how cheap it is is a great life lesson. ,Are there any kid led tours? Hey, that’s better than a lemonade stand for fundraising.

Foodies

Food will be everywhere. But how do you find something to make you happy. Check out the local vendors via Yelp or online foodie articles. But still, what may make someone else salivate may bore your taste buds. Street food is usually the best for variety, but not all travelers can stomach deep fried haggis. We may want to eat it but the body says “no”. So, what do you do? Some places you may stay, if you plan for a few days, may have kitchenette or at least a hot pot and microwave. You can fake a fridge with ice if you have to. The B&Bs however want you to eat with them, so if you have the huge full breakfast in the am, you can nosh the rest as street food. Ratings online are fairly good, some people give you real commentary that is more helpful than food critic columns. It’s spring, so check for food festivals as well.

Food tours will help you find good real food the locals eat, not the touristy pubs or traps. There are hidden gems and food cart setups in most well traveled cities, you just need to know where to look. You can also ask about other local things to do that won’t be on a brochure.

Meet UP

Yeah, you know the Meet Up app where you can find locals doing things that you may like to do? People all over the world join up. If you like table top gaming and want to meet locals in a fun and safe setting, and maybe experience the local cuisine at the same time, it may be a great treat for you.

Comic Cons

Like  being a con-ee? Like comics? There are comic conventions around the globe, there was one in Dubai this last week. Check out the county you plan to visit and see if they have a comic convention coming up and maybe book part of you stay around one. I did last year, went to Glasgow Comic Con and had a fabulous time, met the people behind the Scottish Saltire Comics, and many other great indie comic people. Great tips on local places to eat and see came from here. Also traveled back with a great many comics I lugged all over the place 😉

Here’s a list to start, these sites are about free or budget tours:

http://www.freetour.com

Belfast

http://tasteandtour.co.uk/our-tours

http://www.belfastcitybiketours.com/

http://visitbelfast.com/home/search-keywords/Self-guided%20tours/151

Dublin

https://deliciousdublintours.com/

http://www.dublinfreewalkingtour.ie/

http://www.dublincitybiketours.com/

Edinburgh ( I went on the Ghost Tour, fun)

http://edinburghfreetour.com/

http://freeghosttour.com/

http://www.edinburghbiketours.co.uk/

Glasgow ( I have been to these, worth the walk)

http://www.glasgownecropolis.org/tours-events/

http://www.thegovanstones.org.uk/index.html

http://glasgowbiketours.co.uk/

Galway

http://www.galwaytours.ie/en/galway-city-free-walking-tours.html

Political Tourism is the New Eco Tourism

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When you are traveling to another country, you should always make yourself aware of what is going on before you get there. We all want to have a blissful vacation, and leave politics behind, but some go to actually experience politics and the real experience of being in a local situation. It’s your cuppa. Now is definitely the time.

The world is currently erupting into civil rights marching, and we must celebrate and participate where we can. Currently the “travel ban”, which is heading for part doux, in the US airports for certain countries in flights is causing airport protesting and delays. This backs up planes and flights from originating countries. Keep abreast of the news on the countries you are passing through, have they a relationships with the US at present? But, if you want to say go to Dublin and march in the next protest for women’s rights, check out Twitter and local papers on women’s rights in Dublin. There is nothing wrong with feminism tourism, it’s a great way to really experience how others live and view their world. Just be aware how travel may go, and you may have to land in another area and take other transport to get there, like ferries. The protest map is changing our world.

Women’s Rights Ireland

You should always start reading the local papers of any of the cities you plan to visit. Look for what’s on, and anything like the festival season can bump into your plans. They will affect your travel plans greatly, I know this as the trains got insane last year due to summer festivals and strikes by Scotrail for me. I expect it to be just as crazy this year.

Plan in Advance

Traveling by rail or using ferries this trip, I advise checking the paper for rail news. Before I left last year, I checked Scotrail and found there were planned strikes during my travels. Most of them seemed to  be on bank holiday or something, and sadly all fell on my travel days. Don’t panic, they provide alternative transport like buses. I had a luxury bus tour around Loch Lomond down to Glasgow courtesy of this last year. And that was and interesting adventure, very narrow and crazy roads through Loch Ness and highlands. However, the striking systems in the UK and Ireland follow a solidarity movement in some cases. If one goes out, the rest of transport unions may follow. So keep in mind that your transport may have to change. If you are traveling with a group, you may opt to do a car hire but keep in mind it’s the high season so it is best to do this well in advance.

For example, as I write this and looked at the National Rail site for the UK, I noticed a “Industrial Action” or strike highlighted affecting a particular line. And if you opt to go Virgin Rail, be aware that they use the same tracks and train lines as the national companies, so they will be affected. There is no perfect situation, build in travel time in your itinerary.

Note: High tourist and festival season means crammed trains and buses. Book ahead online and be aware that if you buy a railcard, you may not always be able to reserve online for fixed seats. If you want to see the Munros check a topographical map,  then reserve your seats, near luggage wracks if possible to keep an eye on things. Most of the time people are courteous about luggage, but I do remember when I spent a few minutes rearranging luggage so that myself and everyone behind me could actually use the wracks. Got thanked by a Scotsman for that one.

News of the World

Also, something to keep in mind. If you haven’t read a paper from the UK or Ireland before, I would suggest that you do. Get used to the format a bit. The UK has always had a reputation for in-your-face news coverage. The tattler style magazines and papers are more brutal than in the US. It’s not the US, where we often get very filtered news. The UK can be quite sensationalized. We have crime reports in our papers, but if you see some of the writing and reporting from these countries, take it with a grain of salt. Every city will have it’s dangers, and as a tourist you are a target. But don’t let that deter you. People are just much more open about news and how they live in Europe, that’s what is so great about it. Watch the news if you can, you can get a feel for what is important to the locals and if anything will affect your day. Check the local sports teams playing. In the US we get traffic jams due to games, in Ireland and UK they can get more intense about their sport supporting so game after flow can be treacherous to navigate, so you may wish to reroute before you leave your hotel or restaurant.

ireland-rail

Remember, it’s all a journey, that includes the compromises. Don’t be a typical American tourist, don’t have a tantrum. There will be no sympathy. You will  be avoided like plague. Adapt like the Europeans do.

Ireland by rail: luxury trains, historic routes and railway hotels

Glasgow to Mallaig: Great Train Journeys

Travel News

Online Rail Maps

Ireland Rail

Scotrail

National Rail

UK Route Planner

Virgin Rail

Buses Citylink