When you purchase a train ticket in an unfamiliar area, pay attention to the policies, both those presented during the purchase process, and any that may be written on the back of the ticket. Validation is a common requirement in Europe and, as with Trenitalia, it is typically accomplished by inserting your ticket into a validation machine on the platform. There are other rules you may not expect as well. For instance, if you’re traveling with a Eurail pass (multiple city travel on one ticket), even though it is stamped when you book it, it has to be stamped again by an official at the train station before your first journey, where you must give your passport number and signature.

There are signs in most train stations advising passengers to validate their tickets (albeit in Italian, but it is Italy after all). While not all tickets need to be validated, many do, and the rule is written on the ticket, which means the company has the right to enforce the policy. I understand if you ride Amtrak, or commuter rail in the New York City area, the notion of validation may seem odd since the conductors punch every ticket, but trains in Italy are often big enough, and conductors few enough, that a conductor may not reach you before the end of your journey. You could easily leave the train with a ticket that could be used again.

If policies are not written in English and you don’t speak the language, take the time to decipher the information. You could use a translation app on your phone, such as Google Translate, iTranslate, or Waygo, which works with Japanese, Korean, or Chinese characters. Or, better yet, you could find someone to help you—think of it as an opportunity to strike up a conversation with a local (You never know). In addition to getting your ticket properly punched, you might learn about a great neighborhood or restaurant that has never made its way into a guidebook. And, since the conductor won’t demand extra funds, you’ll have more money to spend when you get there.

Written on December 22nd, 2015 , Transportation, Travel Tips

In my opinion, most all American drivers have no clue how to really drive.  Very few understand the basic rules of the road and show absolutely no courtesy.  It seems the style here is poke along making use of every distracting toy we all possess, with almost no attention paid to actually driving.  Food, water, drinks, cell phones, music players, and personal hygiene activities occupy most of the time behind the wheel.  And all traffic lanes are fair game at any speed. So are American drivers prepared to drive in countries where a more aggressive style is prevalent?
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Written on August 21st, 2014 , Transportation, Travel Tips

Train and metro travel in Europe is pretty much the same.  There are probably multiple routes, called lines, that get the trip done. And there are probably multiple stations as well.
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Written on June 21st, 2014 , Transportation, Travel Tips

Believe it or not, Rome has a subway/metro.  Many tourists visiting the city never realize it exists, and just how useful it can be.  For only 1 Euro you can buy a ticket good for 75 minutes of travel.  And for 4 Euro you can get a 1-day pass.  Considering what a taxi would cost this is a bargain.  And no traffic to worry about, which in Rome can be a real log jamb.
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Written on November 21st, 2009 , Transportation, Travel Tips

The train is a great way to explore Europe in a relaxed manner. There are many reasons to prefer trains over planes, cars and buses for travel in Europe.  Nearly every city has one or more stations which are served by trains many times each day. There are no time-consuming check-ins and often you arrive in the heart of your destination.  While traveling you can admire the view, talk to fellow passengers, go for a stroll or read a good book.  Plus you can eat any time you want without the hasstle of finding a good place.  And you can meet interesting people that always seem willing to share travel tips and ideas.
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Written on November 21st, 2009 , Transportation, Travel Tips

Great title for a Hitchcock movie, and a great way to learn from travelers and locals.

My very first trip to Europe started in Frankfurt and Paris.  Found it very daunting and a real challenge to understand the ins-and-outs of train and subway travel.  In the USA we navigate by numbers (roads, trains, etc.) and compass directions.  Not so in Europe.  They use endpoints and cities, so lots of local knowledge is crucial.  For example, if I wanted to drive from Los Angeles to San Francisco I simply take the I5 North.   But if this were Europe, I’d need to leave LA and “head in the direction” of San Francisco.  But wait, it’s not that simple.  There are no signs in LA that indicate where San Francisco is.  What you must do is find somewhat close towns to LA, and towns along the way, to head towards!  So to do this trip I need to look for a road going to Burbank, Santa Clarita, Frazier Park, Bakersfield, etc.
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Written on July 21st, 2009 , Anicdotes, Transportation

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