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.
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.
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