Public Transit


Is it a Speedboat or Public Transit? It’s Both!

Speedboat / public transit in Bangkok, ThailandThe other day I plugged my destination into Google Maps, as I am wont to do (no joke: Google Maps single-handedly makes this trip possible, because my navigation skills are nonexistent).  The public transit directions seemed to indicate that I take a boat, which seemed odd, but I went with it.

The directions brought me to a rickety old dock next to a narrow river.  After a couple of minutes, boat showed up, pulled over to the side of the dock for about ten seconds, then left again.

About five minutes later, another boat pulled up; this time I got on.  There’s no plank — you just jump on, and then someone comes around to collect your fare.

It was an odd experience, especially since the boat goes fast.

I felt pretty woozy by the time I got to my destination, but it was such a memorable way to get there that I didn’t even mind.

Stockholm is not Cheap

Stockholm, SwedenI’m glad I’m only here for a few days, because this city will straight-up bankrupt me. Everything is so expensive here, it’s nuts. Most things seem to cost two or three times more than you’d think they would.

Want to ride the subway? That’ll cost $6.50 Canadian. For one ticket. A candy bar will run you two or three bucks. A regular movie ticket (i.e. not 3D or IMAX)? Twenty dollars.

They have an Abba museum here, and I thought, hey, that might be fun. I’m not a huge Abba fan, but why not?

I’ll tell you why not: a ticket costs 40 dollars.

They take credit cards here more than anywhere else I’ve been in Europe.  In fact, I went to a couple of places that were credit/debit only — no cash.  And I can see why!  If they paid cash for everything, they’d have to carry around fat stacks of bills like an extra in a rap video.

Is everyone a millionaire here??

A Couple of Thoughts on Austria

Public transitThought Number One: After the bewildering nightmare of trying to get anywhere via bus or subway in Italy, taking public transit here is an absolute pleasure.  Everything is clearly labeled, there are maps everywhere, and when you’re on the bus, all of the stops are spelled out and called out, so it’s always absolutely clear where you are. It’s pretty much the polar opposite of Italy, and it’s amazing.

(And this is somewhat unrelated, but there’s litter everywhere in Italy.  Things are so much cleaner here.  So that’s nice too.)


Thought Number Two: No one jaywalks here.  Everywhere I’ve been in Europe so far (and especially in Italy), people really don’t care whether the little crosswalk guy says to go or to stop.  If there aren’t any cars coming (and, sometimes, even if there are) people just go for it.  Here, on the other hand, everyone waits very patiently, even if the roads are completely deserted.

A Couple of Thoughts on Naples

So confusingThought Number One: I take back everything I said about the Madrid metro being overly confusing; at least I could eventually figure out where I was going if I stared at the map long enough. Trying to navigate the train/subway system in Naples is a true test of your mettle.

Seriously, why is this so confusing?

Between the lack of maps at most stations to help you get oriented, the stations and lines that are outright closed with no particular warning, the complete absence of anyone you can ask questions, and general sense of disorganization everywhere you go (I even saw locals looking confused a few times), it’s bad. I’ve never had this much trouble getting around such a big city. The whole system feels like it’s expressly designed to confound.

Kinda sketchy

Thought Number Two: I like Naples so far, but boy is it rough around the edges.  Setting aside the comically terrible transit system, everything outside of the really upscale/touristy areas are in various states of disrepair.  It gives the place a bunch of character, and I haven’t really felt unsafe walking around anywhere, but so much of the city makes me feel like I’m in a Death Wish movie.

Yep, sketchy

Everything is (comparatively) slick and clean if you’re in the aforementioned upscale/touristy areas, but if you wander even a little bit off the beaten path, you’re suddenly back in 1970s New York.

The Worst Kind of Twist Ending

At the moviesSince I began my travels, I’ve gone to a few movies. Now, I know what you’re thinking: you traveled halfway around the world just to go to the movies?? Well:

  1. Going to the movies is a huge part of my life. Always has been, always will be.
  2. When you’re walking around all day in the heat, there comes a point — usually around 3:00 or 4:00 — when you just wanna sit down in an air conditioned room for a couple of hours.
  3. Don’t judge the way I live my life, man.

I noticed that Wish Upon was playing here in Madrid (for the unaware, Wish Upon is a cheesy horror movie that kinda flopped in the States and didn’t even bother to come out in Canada). Being a fan of cheesy horror movies, I got more excited about this than I should probably admit.

The theatre where it was playing turned out to be on the outskirts of Madrid, so getting there was a bit of a challenge — it involved multiple transfers on the subway.

So confusing

An aside: trying to navigate the Madrid subway system is a baffling ordeal. Being from Toronto (which has, what? Two subway lines? Three?) my brain can hardly even comprehend the Madrid metro’s labyrinthine, multicolored spiderweb of about a dozen overlapping lines. It’s nuts.

So I’m at the movies, the trailers start, and I immediately notice that the English has been dubbed over in Spanish. “Huh,” I think to myself. “That can’t be good.”

And no, it was not good.  I just came from Portugal, where almost all English-language films (with the exception of cartoons) are presented in their original language and subtitled in Portuguese. I sort of figured I was in for the same deal here.

It turns out Portugal is the outlier in this situation; apparently the majority of Europe plays dubbed movies.  So that’s just delightful, obviously.  Thankfully, it is still possible to see undubbed movies — they’re just not as common.

Porto Subway Oddities

SubwaySo here’s a weird thing about the subway system here in Porto: it seems to be run on the honour system.  There are no gates anywhere; there are machines to load up your swipe card with the fare for a ride, and there’s these little card scanners around each station that (I think) you’re supposed to swipe before you get on a train and when you transfer, but that’s it.  I’ve never actually seen anyone confirming that passengers have paid their fare. It’s weird.

I’m constantly paranoid that some gruff, no-nonsense ticket-checker is going to scan my card and it’ll turn out I did it completely wrong. I’ll try to explain that I paid a fare, but of course the guy speaks no English. I’m not entirely sure how this would end for me, but not well I’m sure.


The other oddity is that, in a lot of stations, there are multiple lines that converge, and often the trains from the different lines will all arrive at the same platform. So you have to be careful about which train you’re getting on (even if you’re at the right spot!) or you’ll end up in the wrong place.

I mean, come on. That one seems designed solely to screw with tourists.  Of course I wound up on the wrong train at one point. How could I not? (By paying attention, you’re probably thinking. Shut up, you.)

On the plus side: phones get a rock-solid signal, even when the trains go underground, so that’s nice.