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A new “express” bus service now links Südkreuz train station in Berlin with Schönefeld Airport.  Price:  6 euros, 4 euros with any BVG ticket, 3 euros with a weekly or monthly ticket.  For those flying into Berlin, the ticket remains valid for further transit on public transportation in Berlin ABC.

This bus represents no monetary savings to Shoestring travelers.

  • Berliners with a regular AB ticket need only purchase an “Anschlussticket” for 1.40 euros to take the RE train, the S-Bahn or a BVG bus to the airport.
  • Visitors coming into town for a few days will most certainly be better off purchasing a 2-, 3- or 5-day tourist card or a weekly ticket and traveling by one of the aforementioned methods.
  • If you’re still weighing your options, a single Berlin ABC ticket will get you into town and beyond for just 2.80 euros!

I’m posting about the service nevertheless, as you may find that it will save you transit time, depending on where you are staying/living.  For less than 2 euros more (with my monthly ticket), I may cut up to 30 minutes off my route to the airport — and that’s something worth writing about!

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The LDS has made it possible for travelers with a layover in Salt Lake City to visit their Temple complex downtown:  they offer a complimentary hourly shuttle service from the airport direct to Temple Square (and back!).

In the months of July and August, temple shuttles travel half-hourly from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. with returns from 10:30 a.m. until 8:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday; in the shoulder season, the same hours are traveled hourly.  November through March and Sundays year-round, the shuttle runs a limited 9 a.m.-2 p.m. schedule, with returns from 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.  There is no service on holidays, and travelers are permitted only hand luggage on the shuttle.  The visit requires at least a two-hour layover.

LDS shuttle mapsThe Temple is open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily.  It’s also possible to visit the Tabernacle, home of the world famous Tabernacle Choir, or, if the timing is right, to hear a choir concert — Thursday nights from 8-9:30 p.m. or Sundays from 9-11 a.m.  Admission to all is free.  Find out more information for your specific date by calling their visitors’ center directly: 1-800-537-9703.

Thanks to Travel Tips from a Frequent Traveler for the tip and the map image!

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The Russians have a term — avoska — for a small tote bag carried “just in case.” Theirs were used for the random times where lines spontaneously formed for things like bananas. When lines appeared, people would join even if they weren’t certain what was on offer (on the grounds that, if people were lining up, something good must be for sale)!

In the same “Be Prepared” spirit, such a reusable tote bag is one of the smartest things a no-budget traveler can stash in the outer pockets of their luggage or in their handbag.

The nice folks at Wellcare want you to have this tote for free. It appears to have nice long straps for shoulder carrying. If you don’t like the design, I recommend you simply turn it inside out!

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Greetings fellow travelers and welcome to this week’s Carnival of Cities. I’m happy to be your host as we jet around the world following tales of tapioca, tumbling and taxidermy. Intrigued? Read on . . .

New York City, NY, USA: Sascha Zuger from Travel Savvy Mom scoops a great hotel package, describes her run-in with Sesame Street’s Gordon and highlights the Kids’ Night on Broadway offer in her post Broadway, Baby!

Rome, Italy: speaking of perfect hotels, Mara at Mother of All Trips has identified a real winner for young families near the Coliseum in her post Mondays Are for Dreaming: Hotel Lancelot.

Naples, Italy: Karen Landes is blogging at WhyGo Italy on the shades of life on display when slicing Naples in two in the post Spaccanapoli: Naples’ Historic Main Street.

Washington, DC, USA: Jon at The DC Traveler gives us a peek at the folks folding themselves in half and risking their lives nightly for our enjoyment when he goes Backstage at Cirque du Soleil KOOZA.

San Francisco, CA, USA: DFernandez takes us along on a twisty insider tour of his favorite tourist spots in The (Crooked) Road Not Taken at You’re So City.

London, UK: Caitlin at Roaming Tales is serving up top tips for London’s East End — not the least of which is where you may spot folk-dancing squirrels selling high-end clothes . . . Check out her post A Stroll through London’s Quirky East End for directions, or simply let your badger on a leash lead the way!

Prescott, AZ, USA: Granny J takes in an impressive number of public scupltures in Prescott’s Heroic Bronzes at Walking Prescott.

Dublin, Ireland: A detail on the airport wall caught the eye of Fin Keegan in the post Bitter in the End.

Dresden, Germany: You’d have to be blind to miss the detail on the tiled wall called the Procession of Princes in my post Saturday Photo Friday #4 here at Less Than a Shoestring.

Bangkok, Thailand: The news about hundreds of air passengers stranded as rebels seize the airport putting your Thai travel plans on hold? Conan Stevens serves up a perspective on the impact of the foreign spender in Is Thailand Safe to Travel in Now?

Shanghai, China: Our benevolent leader Sheila Scarborough gives us the scoop on a bubble tea chain discovered in China which has a branch in — no joke — Albuquerque in the post Stop into China’s rbt for Tea and Juice Drinks at the Family Travellogue.

Mexico City, Mexico: Gilocafe has a video to share from their visit to Teotihuacan Pyramids: Mexico City, Mexico.

Kanyakumari, India: Maneesh of Admirable India shares his photos from two museum visits in the post Trip to Kanyakumari: Chapter 2: Wandering Monk Exhibition, Kanyakumari and Government Museum, Kanyakumari: Part 1.

Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic: Jason Sarracini of Trip Quips gives a quick resort tip for a stay on the island.

That concludes this week’s Carnival — the next Carnival of Cities will be hosted by the friendly folks at UpTake. Submit your (one, non-spammy) blog post about any aspect of ONE city to the next edition before next Tuesday using the carnival submission form. If you like these posts, try browsing the extensive Carnival of Cities archives.

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Shoestring reader and friend of the blog James D., currently of the Big Apple, took a trip to Montreal this summer and had the following tips for fellow no-budget travelers:

+ Getting There: if you have time, take the train from NYC. Yes, it is a long ride, but it is a beautiful one, and the best part is the train station is right in the middle of downtown. The airport is about 30 minutes outside of the city.

+ Getting Around: like NYC, the city is on a grid, making traveling around really straightforward. The Metro is fast, cheap and easy to navigate.

+ A City of Green Neighborhoods: during the days, I explored the city on foot. A great hike is up the Mountain (Parc du Mont-Royal). This was an all day hike, up and around. There are breathtaking views of the city and there were a lot of people picnicking up there.

The sightly less trendy part of the city is the Plateau. This is north of Parc la Fontaine, another wonderful park in the city. Down the hill from the park (down rue Amherst) is a nice little market that is a great place to pick up a snack for lunch.

For the historic charms of the city, head to Vieux Montreal — the Old City (think European cobblestone streets). Here you’ll find lots of museums and a nice walk along the water. Wandering around the back streets, I found a small store with a sandwich and drink combo for under $5.

The last day I walked over to one of the islands in the St. Lawrence River, Parc Jean-Drapeau. The home of the Biosphere and the Olympic Fields, you can beat the crowds by getting lost instead in the surrounding woody area.

+ Free (and Useful!) Brochures: the two best things I picked up were totally free: the first was the official tourist guide to the city. I saw stacks of these in every hotel and B&B. It has some small maps and lots of historical information about the different areas of the city and some of the more touristy things to do. It is paid for by advertisers, so I was wary of the food recommendations. The second was a free city map. This was large, but even the locals had them, so you don’t stand out holding one.

+ Practice that French: while a lot of people do speak English, a little bit of French will go far. If you get lost, it is faster to start off in broken French and the person will do their best to help you out.

+ Bring your Own: the main street in Montreal is Ste. Catherine. It is great during the summer since the majority of it is closed off and becomes pedestrian-only. However, like all downtown areas, it is the most expensive part of the city for food. I went there almost every night with a coffee and sat in one of the many little parks just to watch the city go by.

+ More Cheap Entertainment: Montreal also has a great bar culture, with many no-cover shows: jazz, rock-a-billy, etc.

+ When to Visit: every weekend during the summer, the city comes alive with festivals and parades. During the Jazz Fest you’ll find numerous free concerts all day long. Another festival I caught while visiting was Gale-rue d’Art, an art street festival.

+ Where to Stay: Montreal is filled with B&Bs. The one I stayed at fed me tons of food and allowed me to do laundry there. The manager also gave me suggestions on things to do every day. Talk to locals! Plus, if it is a good B&B, they will feed you enough for two meals.

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If you’re new to Less Than a Shoestring, please take some time and have a poke around! I welcome your questions and comments on the site. This blog shows that travel can indeed be both pleasurable and frugal. Because I live in Europe, you’ll find loads of information on European no-budget travel — but in keeping with This Just In’s post and for your ease, I’ve put together below a collection of my U.S. tips and bargains.

Once a month, the Travel on a Shoestring Carnival turns its focus to the Americas. You’ll find lots of great tips from around the blogosphere collected in the following posts:

Every Friday, the blog features a travel freebie. Some timeless classics for U.S. staycationers and backyard travelers:

Not free, but cheap activities include:

For those traveling a bit further afield, take a look at the posts:

If you’ll be driving to your destination, you’ll want to read:

Before flying, from the wild and wooly world of U.S. airline travel:

Changes U.S. travelers and visitors should know about:

See the no-budget traveler take on the New York Times’ “Frugal Traveler” in the posts:

If you like what you see, subscribe to the RSS feed and have the latest no-budget travel tips delivered to you! It takes just a second to set up, ensuring you never miss a single post.

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Today’s post comes courtesy of long time reader, first time guest blogger Dana, currently of North Carolina. Dana blogs regularly at From My Wandering Mind and is head chef at Geek Buffet. You’ll find more descriptions of her recent trip to Japan and China starting here.

Last month, I took a 3-week trip to Asia, promising to look out for money-saving travel ideas to post here. Unfortunately, since it was a business trip, I couldn’t do a full-out frugal version of traveling, but I still tried to take notes along the way. The first and best thing I came across was the Japan Rail Pass.

Despite the fact that I used to live in Japan, this trip was the first time I had ever gotten to use a Rail Pass, and it was awesome. My parents had used them when they came to visit me during my time there, but since I didn’t have one of my own to use then, I didn’t realize the awesomeness I was missing out on. Let me explain, all Q&A style.

What is a Japan Rail Pass?

  • The Japan Rail Pass allows the person holding it to essentially jump on and off any JR train line in all of Japan, as well as some long-distance buses, and maybe some ferries, too. Once you have the pass, you don’t pay for tickets for any of these rides, just flash your pass to the gate people. Japan is not, on the whole, a great place for spur-of-the-moment travel, so in many ways the Japan Rail Pass = freedom. No counting your coins to see if you have enough to get all the short ride train tickets you will need for your sightseeing for the day, no having to search for shinkansen travel weekend deals long in advance. Just go!

Why didn’t you use one when you lived there, if it’s so awesome?

  • This is the tricky and sad part. Rail Passes are only for tourists. Specifically, only for people who enter Japan with a “Temporary Visitor” visa stamp in their passports. Anyone living in Japan long-term is ineligible. Many of my regular Japanese friends hadn’t even heard of it unless they’d had a lot of foreign visitors before.

How can I get one of these golden tickets?

  • Because this pass is only available to tourists, it is, somewhat bizarrely, only sold outside of Japan! Their website has a page with information on where the exchange orders are sold all around the world. Just select your appropriate geographic area.

Wait, what’s an “exchange order”? I thought I wanted a rail pass.

  • This is the other weird thing about the process. You can’t buy a Rail Pass inside Japan, but you do have to be in Japan to pick it up. Basically, what happens is you call up whatever tourist agency you have elected to buy the pass from and order one. They send you a package of information with your exchange order in it, valid for one Japan Rail Pass. When you get to Japan, you find the Rail Pass exchange office in the airport (or a major railway station, if you get picked up at the airport by a friend or something), give them your exchange order and your passport to prove you are a Temporary Visitor, and they give you the Rail Pass, with the dates of validity stamped inside it really big for easy reading by railway gatekeepers. The website explains all this stuff in detail as well.

How much does it cost?

  • For adults, the regular pass costs Y28300 (US $263 at time of writing) for 7 days, Y45100 (US $419) for 14 days, and Y57700 (US $536) for 21 days.

Hey now! This is Less Than a Shoestring here! That’s expensive.

  • Yes, yes, I know! Please don’t go away yet. As awesome as the Rail Pass is, it isn’t for everyone. Here are some ways to figure out if it’s going to be worth it for you to get one. Think about all the places you’re planning to go.

+ How many shinkansen rides will you be taking? If the answer is none, or even just one, then the Rail Pass probably isn’t worth it for you.

> Particularly if you are going to be solely in Kyoto, you shouldn’t bother to invest in one, because all the transportation within that city is primarily by bus, and your pass won’t work on their system.

> If you are going to be only in Tokyo, the Rail Pass will let you jump on and off all the JR trains and subways in the city, but perhaps not enough to really justify spending $250-$500 just for that.

> This page offers a rundown near the bottom of other economy day passes and their prices that you could consider instead.

+ If the answer is two round-trip shinkansen rides (ex: Tokyo-Kyoto and back, and then Tokyo-Sendai and back) the 7-day Rail Pass will pay for itself right away, because the cost of two shinkansen tickets is already about the same cost as one Rail Pass, plus the Rail Pass is taking care of all of your in-city train riding, too, as well as non-shinkansen local trains, etc.

> After that, it becomes a comparison game. As I said, the easiest way to figure out if it’s worth it is to figure out how many shinkansen rides you’ll need to take, look up those prices on the Japan Railways site and compare with the Rail Pass price for the length of time you’ll be in Japan.

+ From the front page of that site, it also looks like Japan Railways now offers some other passes for shorter periods of time and/or limited only to certain regions. Therefore, if you know that all of your travel is going to be only on the east coast, or only in Hokkaido, etc., those might be better deals than the whole-hog Japan Rail Pass, which covers the entire country. But again, those passes appear to only be available to non-Japanese-passport holders, so check out their restrictions to make sure you qualify.

As much as I would like to go back to Japan to live someday, now I’m also completely convinced that I want to go back sometime soon as a tourist, so I can take advantage of the Rail Pass system again. It really makes the experience completely different. Not only is the rail system in Japan super efficient, but now I can go anywhere at any time! The best of all possible worlds! It has always struck me as a rather unfair system to restrict the passes to out-of-country tourists, but take advantage of it if you can.

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