Arlene Reich Temple in Spain

Lessons Learned

Needless to say, this has been a learning experience in self-sufficiency, common sense, and rapid decision-making.  Most of it derives from being thrust into bewildering situations where my general response would generally be to laugh.

The following is a list of avoidable travel mistakes made in these recent months as the trial and error semester roars on.

  1. Do not miss your flight.  Please.
  2. Don’t go out the night before your 6 a.m. home.  Be honest.  You won’t make it.
    1. Check in and verify your reservation online first.  Ryanair especially will charge you if you don’t.
    2. Buy the ticket for the right day (unless you’re dying to spend 800 euro on the next available return flight to Oviedo the day of your midterm exam.  Or walk from the airport to the bus station to catch that 12-hour train ride.  Or can find a honeymooning couple willing to give you a lift.)…Yeah.
  3. Check bus schedules—do not assume that there is a bus leaving every 10 minutes to the airport.  This could result in a panicked cab ride with a hefty fare.
  4. Do not eat anything off the table you haven’t ordered.  Ie: Bread.  This is where restaurants sneak in extra charges.  And get off the main drag!  If there is an advertiser out front begging you to come it, it probably isn’t that good anyway.  Good food speaks for itself, and you will get a better price.
  5. Do not jump the barriers in the public transportation system (in front of transportation security).  You will be grabbed and fined—and saying that you don’t speak the language does not warrant an exit.
  6. Do not leave anything in the cab—this includes cameras, wallets, and yes, even your friends.
  7. Get a purse with both a clasp and a zipper.  Don’t use your back pockets to stash your passport.  Just because you are from Philly does not mean that you’ve seen it all.  The pickpockets on Barcelona’s L3 green line target vulnerable female tourists.  Even if you are hideously lost, use all of the swag you can muster to at least act like you know what you are doing.
  8. Check baggage restrictions for your airline—weigh and measure!  This is where they get you for each extra packed kilogram of things you won’t need.  Backpacks are safer.
  9. Know where your hostel is and how to get to it before arriving.
    1. Don’t depend on google maps.  Your iPhone is long dead/at home.  Siri won’t save you.
    2. In a pinch, McDonald’s always has WiFi access.
  10. Always check the fine print for hostels.  Ie: “Stray Cat Hostel” is not just a cute name.  Read reviews on hostelworld before deciding.  It may be worth it to pay more for a better location. Or sheets.  Or a weekend without a bedbug swarm.
  11. Bring a pair of flip-flops to that hostel.
  12.  Just because it’s cheap, doesn’t mean it is worth it.  Ie: Doner Kepab, the Burger King crisis menu. We mortals were not meant to endure it.   Oh, and just try to enjoy that cathedral tour/club/beach with inflamed intestines.
  13.  Don’t put your coat down in B12.
  14. Know your home address.  And don’t treat it like your freshmen dorm room.  Instead of an RA, you will have an angry older Spanish host mom who don’t mess.
  15.  If you are planning on roughing it overnight in the airport, make sure it is actually open overnight first.
  16.  Never take cabs in Budapest.
  17. Avoid transportation issues in Bucarest.  Do not get on the bullet ridden train to the airport that stops in the middle of nowhere, where you are then funneled into a minivan with drivers who don’t speak English.
  18. Don’t touch anything from the street vendors if you do not intend to buy it.  (And in most cases, you definitely do not want to buy it.)
  19. This includes various toys, drugs, flowers.  Also, do not let them draw you or take your photo.  In most cases this somehow warrants some sort of extra cost.
  20. Happy trails!

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