As much as we all enjoyed the cactus, it’s time for a change — you’ll find July’s free desktop calendar ready for download in the “For Your Desktop” tab above. You can see a sneak peek on the right. Setting new wallpaper is easy — even technophobes can follow the directions and have this lovely Spanish scene on their computer. Enjoy!
Archive for June, 2008
Transportation Costs . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
+ Schönes Wochenende Ticket, split 5 ways: 7 euros
Subtotal: 7 euros
Food and Drink Costs . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
+ Ice cream: 1.50 euros
+ Coffee and pastry in a cafe: 2.25 euros
+ Bottle of cold beer at the train station: 1.67 euros
Subtotal: 5.42 euros
Other Costs . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . + toilet, Warnemünde train station: .50 euros
Subtotal: 0.50 euros
TOTAL: 12.92 euros
That doesn’t include the freebies we took advantage of:
+ maps of Rostock and Warnemünde from the Rostock tourist information
+ leisturely walk through historic city center and along the port area of Rostock
+ hours of sunshine, at the Rostock port and on the Warnemünde beach (bring your sunscreen and avoid the wicked sunburn!)
+ shell collecting and beach walking at sunset
This trip followed my typical no-budget rules: ride public transport (€7 for ~5 hours in the train to/from Rostock plus the S-Bahn ride to Warnemünde), eat groceries (we packed enough food along — yogurt, hard-boiled eggs, sandwiches, veggies and dip, tea in a thermos – to tide us over between ice cream pit stops), do lots of cheap or free activities. That said, the trip could be done even *more* cheaply if one remained strict about not purchasing any food or drink. We found prices to be incredibly reasonable; however, if you’re going to “splurge,” they are lowest in Rostock, which has far fewer (docked cruise-ship) tourist hordes.
If you’re just looking for a day at the beach, it is possible to skip Rostock completely and head straight to Warnemünde — but we found the quiet and restfulness of the city of Rostock (on a Sunday) a welcome foil to the busy den between train station and beach in the resort of Warnemünde.
Wondering where else in Europe you can travel so cheaply? Check out my other budgets:
Baring My Budget: Madrid and Barcelona
Baring My Budget: Malta
Baring My Budget: Stockholm
Baring My Budget: Hamburg
Baring My Budget: Venice
Baring My Budget: London
Baring My Budget: London, Take 2
Posted in Cheap Activities, Europe, Free Stuff, Germany, Luggage, Museums, Public Transport, Travel, Web Tips, tagged Berlin, Brandenburg Gate, Chancellory, Hamburger Bahnhof, Hauptbahnhof, Holocaust Memorial, layover, main train station, modern art, Reichstag on 24 June 2008 | 3 Comments »
Yesterday’s post on Berlin main train station layovers described a lovely picnic location in a nearby park. If you can’t forgo sightseeing for two hours, however, there are two options within short distance of the station:
- Chancellory / Reichstag / Brandenburg Gate / Holocaust Monument
Check your luggage at the train station and head out from the Washingtonplatz entrance. You should already see the Chancellory waiting across the Spree. Cross the bridge over the river and head towards it. You’ll pass between the Chancellory and the Paul Löbe Haus (Bundestag offices) — from here, looking both left and right, you can see the architect’s intentional symbolism of transparency in government.
Around the corner, the Reichstag comes into view. In winter, or between 6 and 10 p.m. year-round, you may have a good chance of ascending to the top in 30 minutes or less — expect to spend at least 30 minutes inside the dome as well. At other times and on weekends, waits alone may exceed 2 hours. If you must get to the top on a limited schedule, the only other way in is to make (and keep!) reservations at Käfer, the restaurant atop the building. You can find an online reservation request form here. It offers spectacular views and reasonable value for the price — try to hit lunch (soups ~ 9 euros, salads ~ 14 euros) or Kaffee und Kuchen (coffee and cake ~ 7 euros) time instead of the pricier dinner hour.
With half a day, you could request a guided tour of the building, which all end at the viewing dome. It is best to send your requests in advance, but it is possible to pop over even at the last minute at the scheduled tour times to see if space is available (enjoy the sights, but don’t expect English explanations in such a case, however). Amazingly, all visits to and tours of the Reichstag are FREE!
From the rear of the building, follow the masses across the street and down the block to the Brandenburg Gate. If you have extra time, the Holocaust Memorial is just a bit further up the street. If instead you find yourself short on time, hop on the M85 bus (ask for the cheaper “Kurzstrecke” ticket) from either the Memorial or the Reichstag which will take you right back to the main train station.
Exiting the main station on Europaplatz, head towards the right, walking along Lehrter Str.; the museum is located about a 7-minute walk from the station, on the opposite side of the street. Closed Mondays; open Tuesday-Friday 10-18; Saturday 11-20; Sunday 11-18. Admission price: 8 euros for adults, 4 euros for students with valid ID. Admission free Thursdays after 2 p.m.
If this all still seems confusing, why don’t you try following my Google map?
Two Hours in . . . is a new series on layover time killers for major transportation hubs. First stop: Berlin’s main train station. This first post in a two-part report will describe a relaxed, non-sightseeing option. The next post will describe your short-term sightseeing options — so stay tuned for further ideas.
On the -1 level (B1), you’ll find a Kaiser’s supermarket in the far southwest corner (consult this map) which will handily provide you with everything you need for a picnic lunch or dinner. Take your supplies and head out the Europaplatz entrance; cross twice at the streetlight to the left. Continue to the middle of the block, where you will find the entrance to the Moabit Prison Historical Park (open daily from April to September, 8-21; October to March, 8-16). While the place is designed for the memorialization of political prisoners held and executed there for over a century, you will find — as in many such memorial spaces in Germany — dual-use areas, with a children’s play corner and picnic tables (where I recently saw a child’s birthday celebration) and loads green space for playing with dogs, frisbees or simply sunning oneself. Enjoy the grass and quiet till it’s time to head back to your connecting train.
If this description seems confusing, why don’t you try following my Google map?
Posted in Asia, Australia, Carnivals, Cheap Activities, China, Currency, Food, India, Museums, Public Transport, Shopping, Travel, Web Tips, tagged Cambodia, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand on 21 June 2008 | Leave a Comment »
Welcome to the fifth Travel on a Shoestring Carnival for Asia, Oz. Here you’ll find Asian, Australian, New Zealand and Oceania travel tips for those without a lot of money to spend.
Photographic inspiration comes to us this week from Alan D. Newton. You can read all of the details about his visit to Hachioji City, Japan, at Global Eye: Takaosan Buddhas posted at Intelligent Travel.
Donald Morrison changes his mind about public transportation in the Chinese capital in The New Beijing Subway: Suddenly, a Pretty Good Ride posted at IHT Globespotters.
Angelinaaahh has three currency exchange tips for those on their way to Phnom Penh in Riel-ing and Dealing in Cambodia posted at Wanderus. If you’re headed on to Thailand, you might also want to read her recommendations in Trekking Through Chiang Mai.
Never go hungry in Singapore or Malaysia after Austin Hill‘s rundown of local food courts in How To: Eat At A Hawker Center posted at Travellious, saying, “One of the best ways to eat cheaply in relatively expensive Singapore is to hit up stands at hawker centers. I give you the low down on how to do it right.”
Tired of getting socked by currency conversion fees (or don’t know whether or not your credit card is profiting wildly on your overseas purchases)? Raymond to the rescue with his List Of Credit Card Foreign Currency Transaction Fees posted at Money Blue Book.
Thanks to everyone for participating. Submit your blog article (or encourage your favorite travel bloggers to submit) to the next edition of Travel on a Shoestring: Asia, Oz using the carnival submission form. Next week this time we travel to South America, Africa, the Middle East, and Antartica. You can still submit your posts to that carnival till Wednesday.
Safety is one of the primary concerns of every traveler. Here are a few freebies to help protect yourself on the road (like the treacherous one below I recently spotted in Linz, Germany):
+ from germs
+ from cooties
+ from insects
+ from password theft
+ from sunburn (scroll to “Product Features”)
+ and, if you’re crafty, from pickpockets (1, 2, 3)
Like free stuff? Browse previous Friday Freebies.
Posted in Automobiles, Budget, Canada, Caribbean, Carnivals, Cheap Activities, Entertainment, Food, Lodging, Museums, Public Transport, Rail, Travel, USA, Web Tips, tagged Boston, camping, Hawaii, Hotwire, Montreal, national parks, rental car on 14 June 2008 | 2 Comments »
Welcome to the fifth Travel on a Shoestring Carnival for the Americas. Here you’ll find North American, Central American and Caribbean travel tips for those without a lot of money to spend.
This week’s photographic inspiration comes from the Canada article at DirectoryM. The entry is loaded with tons of information about the country, including a really interesting section on distinctly Canadian cuisine. Now let’s get down to business!
If you’re in the mood for a city vacation, you’ll want to check out the following posts:
+ Montreal. In Montreal is for [Vietnamese Food] Lovers posted at The Ironic Mullet TM :: Culture and food from a traveler’s perspective :: The Tiny Guide, Lee Ann Westover deliberates the cheapest way to get there from NYC and runs down your best options for authentic pho.
+ Abingdon. On I-81 between Knoxville and Roanoake, not far from the TN-NC-VA border, lies a unique historical theater. Read about this cultural excursion in Joanne Scarborough‘s post GB Shaw wanted spinach: the Barter Theatre at Perceptive Travel Blog.
+ Using public transport. Penny Nickel presents 15 tips for a frugal, relaxing, earth-friendly vacation that’s car-free! posted at Money and Values.
- Penny Nickel doesn’t have you convinced? Read the measured deliberations of the Global Traveler in Should You Rent A Car On Vacation? posted at Traveling Around The World.
- Maybe you’re considering an RV vacation as a way to cut travel and accommodation costs? You’ll want to check out Aaron‘s advice in Top 10 Tips for buying an older used RV posted at Trailer Trash Traveler.
+ Booking hotels for less. Ybother lays out the basics of using Hotwire, from figuring out which hotel you’re booking to making sure the room you book meets your expectations, in Using Hotwire? 10 Hot Tips on Booking Hotels via Hotwire posted at A Top Ten List Everyday to Jumpstart Your Knowledge.
If want to get back to nature, try on the following posts for size:
Perhaps you’re headed for an island vacation instead?
+ Global Traveler presents Budget Traveling In The Caribbean posted at Traveling Around The World, saying, “The Caribbean is a great place to travel at any time of the year for a tropical island vacation.”
+ The Traveling Mamas were on location in Hawaii and have a bunch of great posts on cheap experiences. Try Molokai Sunset on Papohaku Beach, Mama on the Move – Hawaii Hiking to Petroglyphs, or, if you’re hungry, Where to Eat a Great Fast Food Lunch in Hawaii.
If you’re looking to save money on plane tickets, have a gander at:
+ Raymond presents The Best Frequent Flyer Airline Miles Credit Cards For Cheap Flights posted at Money Blue Book.
- You’ve got your flight and want to hit the ground running? Lars presents Help Preventing Jet Lag – New Study, New Advice posted at InsightsandAdvice.com.
Can’t afford to fly? Then take the bus instead! Jack Norell presents Bus travel around the world posted at Eyeflare – Travel Articles and Tips, saying, “Bus travel is often as budget as you can get. Cheaper than trains, but faster than walking, here are some of the best cheap bus operators in the world.”
General tips for budget travel come to us this week from:
+ Matthew Paulson tells us how to do it all on the company dime while saving a nickel in How to Go on Business Trips & Come Home With Extra Money posted at The Travel Advocate.
When staying in someone else’s home, it is expected you act considerately towards your host. Tip Diva presents Tip Diva | Top Ten Tips – Being A Considerate House Guest, saying, “When you’re traveling, a friend or family member may offer you a room for a night, a week or even longer. Even though you may be close to the person, you’re still a guest, and there are some things that every gracious person should know.”
- For even more advice on this topic, check out my post “The Art of Being a Gracious Houseguest.”
Wrapping up this week, minnemom reflects on the reason behind the vacation weekend in Memorial Day Observance posted at Travels with Children, saying, “While not describing a particular destination per se — an observance like this can be found around the country — I think it is important to stop and pay tribute, and not to think of “holidays” as just “vacations.” Maybe we can all take some time out of our travels for observances such as this.”
Thanks to everyone for participating. Submit your blog article (or encourage your favorite travel bloggers to submit) to the next edition of Travel on a Shoestring: Americas using the carnival submission form. Next week this time we travel to Asia, Australia, New Zealand and Oceania. You can still submit your posts to that carnival till Wednesday.
I’m busy with all the last-minute must-dos before my trip begins tomorrow, so just a quick post/plea:
National Geographic is sponsoring an ecotourism changemakers competition and awarding three winners $5000 each towards their project. You can read about these 20 inspiring finalists at the link above.
Today is the last day to vote for your favorites, and you’ve got to pick three for your vote to count. So let me make it a smidge easier for you by encouraging you to vote for the Great Baikal Trail project. Having visited Baikal, I know this is a region sorely in need of sustainable ecotourism development and having lived in Russia, I know that environmentalists there need all the support they can get. I also know $5000 is going to go far on this project.
So pretty please, pick yourself two other winners, register at the site (it takes just 30 seconds), then cast your votes. Our Russian friends thank you!
Thanks to Elizabeth for the tip!
Posted in Airports, Automobiles, Contest, Currency, Packing, Public Transport, Rail, Shopping, Travel, USA, Web Tips, tagged cultural exchange, exchange students, high school exchange, international students, laundry, midwest, ride sharing on 10 June 2008 | 3 Comments »
Help *me* feel the love! There’s just two more days for you to give me your advice on Frankfurt-Hahn and surrounds, Cologne/Bonn, Seville and Granada. Everyone leaving a comment has a chance to win a modest prize, hand-selected from each destination by yours truly. So get entering!
Carla from Phoenix is planning some extensive travel around the Midwest, “Chicago to Madison, from Madison to Minneapolis, from Ann Arbor to Chicago from Chicago to Iowa City and Urbana,” and wanted to know the cheapest options for getting around.
It makes most sense to look at the major ground carriers: Greyhound, Megabus and Amtrak. If you’re willing to share rides, Craigslist for each of those cities should come up with a list of people offering space in their cars (for example, Minneapolis); don’t overlook university websites, either – try contacting the student government at each university for more information on online ride boards. If you have more money, you can fly between the bigger destinations. Naturally there is also car rental as an option. What’s right for you will depend on both the budget and the time frame involved.
Dana from Durham wanted to know what detergent to carry for travel laundry needs.
If you are cheap or have allergies, it is possible to use the laundry detergent you have on hand while on the road. If you use a liquid, pour some over into a 100ml or less travel bottle and carry in your liquids bag. If you use a powder, half a snack-size baggie should be more than enough for your trip.
Popular in Europe are “travel tubes” of handwashing detergent. You can get these tubes for under a euro at any drugstore. Unfortunately, most are 125 or 200 ml, making them too large to fly in carry-on luggage. I did find a travel-sized tube of Burti, but 30 ml struck me as quite small! I will purchase the mini Burti for my upcoming trip and report back.
In a pinch, shampoo is always quite good — it smells nice, breaks down oils, is readily available and cheap!
Next cheapest option is simply buying detergent wherever you arrive. A bottle of store-brand detergent can be found for $2-3 in most any grocery or drug store.
Finally, a worthwhile addition to the travel laundry kit is Febreeze — it handily takes the stink out of smoky, sweaty clothes when you don’t have time to wash. There are now ”Febreeze-to-Go” bottles that are TSA-friendly, but you can pour over any bottle you already have into a mini spray container or atomizer.
Patricia from Norman wanted to know how to best exchange money when arriving in [insert developed country here].
Most straightforward and cheapest is an ATM withdrawl. There will certainly be cash machines at any international airport; often if you google for the airport in question, you can even find which banks have ATMs and where they are located, which can save you withdrawl fees if your bank has international partners. Don’t forget to call your bank and credit-card companies in advance and warn them of your impending international transactions; otherwise, you may find yourself blocked off from your own money, for your own security!
You should ALWAYS have at least one backup method; if your primary method is electronic (i.e. credit or ATM), be sure your secondary method is physical currency, such as cash or traveler’s cheques. $100 in backup is enough to get you through a pinch, if necessary.
Megan from Ithaca wrote with a plea on behalf of international exchange students:
American families can help make international travel and education affordable for high school exchange students by hosting these young travelers. If you have seen the world and relied upon the generosity and kindness of the international travel community, I encourage you to give back by hosting a young adventurer. Volunteer host families in the U.S. are hard to come by these days, but they are the reason that many of these students are able to visit the U.S., learn English and share their culture with us. To those of you who have hosted, I thank you on behalf of the international education community. For those of you who have considered hosting and have not, please take that next step – reach out and help a student study in the U.S.!
Even if you cannot take someone into your home for a school year, remember there are lots of ways for you to help foreign students while they are in your country: invite them over to celebrate holidays with your family; take them along on an outing, excursion or vacation; drive them around (since they don’t have driver’s licenses and cars, even trips to the mall are welcomed!); teach them how to cook a local specialty and let them cook theirs in your kitchen; etc. Start the good karma rolling by reaching out just once this year to an international student (university as well as high school students). College students, it is so easy for you to extend hospitality by simply inviting the kid from down the hall to go to the dining hall with you or to accompany you on your next Target run! They will be grateful for your efforts, I promise.
That’s all for this round. If you’ve got a question, feel free to shoot me an email via the contact form.
From the producer of our poorly-orchestrated increased airline security measures (“Only Terrorists Carry 200 ml of Toothpaste”) and the creator of the color-based national security threat chart (“Like Clockwork, Orange!”), a new move certain to alienate our closest friends and allies: starting January 12, 2009, all travelers to the U.S. who travel without visa restrictions (15 million people annually) will now be required to register themselves and their travel plans online at least 72 hours prior to travel or be denied boarding on their chosen air or sea carrier.
Just whom does this affect? Try Andorra, Austria, Australia, Belgium, Brunei, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. (In the near future, our friends from the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Slovakia and South Korea too.)
What hasn’t changed? This is the same information the U.S. government has always collected from these travelers on a form passed out by each carrier prior to arrival and turned in to border agents. The digital information will be kept just as long as the paper version: an unbelievable 75 years! Canadians and Mexicans are not affected by this regulation, nor are those arriving by car, foot, bus or bicycle.
What has changed? The information can be submitted ONLY via internet. Travelers must provide this information no later than 72 hours in advance of their departure or will be denied boarding. Those denied visa-free waivers will be notified prior to arrival on U.S. soil that they will not be granted admission and directed to apply for visas. While currently free, the government is reserving the right to charge for this “service”!
What’s improved? If your passport details don’t change, your ESTA travel authorization remains valid for two years and for multiple entries into the U.S., meaning frequent travelers will in fact have less paperwork. If you were going to be denied visa-free entry, you would find out ahead of time, allowing you to apply for a visa prior to travel.
What’s still unclear? Who exactly is responsible for filing the information: you or your ticket agent? What happens for last-minute travelers? How will airlines know who’s filed and who hasn’t? Will the EU approve the measure following its examination of the related treaties of its member states? And might they seriously start charging to finance the change?
Reactions, not surprisingly, have been negative.
New Zealand Herald: Travel Agents Association New Zealand president Peter Barlow said travellers to Europe increasingly chose to travel via Asia because of the US’s “extreme” stance on security. “This is just another compelling reason to not go via the States.”
Washington Post: Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, a Dutch member of the European Parliament, said the effort “contributes to an atmosphere of general distrust” fostered by American security measures. “Transatlantic cooperation between the intelligence services is the only way forward, not the massive collection of data in general,” she said.
Australia is the only other country which has a similar program in place for visa-free travel. They currently charge $20 AUD for running the check.
Interesting factoid (from Business Standard): the program was to be called ETA [Electronic Travel Authorization] but became ESTA instead after Spanish officials expressed reservations because of the Basque separatist group also known as ETA.
Thanks to Dana for the tip!