Frequently Asked Questions
Trip Start Jun 29, 2013
11Trip End Jul 28, 2013
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Q: Is 50 minutes enough time for an international layover in Zurich?
A: No. Unless you are an Olympic sprinter or the luckiest person in the world, 50 minutes is not quite enough time for your layover in Zurich. Even sprinting won't help you much if you can't make the lines move faster. Also, you are obviously not the luckiest person in the world, because that title has already been claimed by yours truly. Yes we made the flight, no the checked baggage didn't (And this is why I didn't check bags)
Arriving to Zurich from Canada, you have to go through security, take a train, wait in line at immigration, ride a long escalator, and then wind through David Bowie's Labyrinth all in your attempt to find gate A-51, at which point a bus will take you to the waiting plane. We arrived huffing and puffing right before they closed the doors. Nobody made it after us. The many empty seats on the plane paid tribute to those who didn't quite make it. It was like riding in a tomb of lost hopes and dreams. Like bobbing in lifeboats after the sinking of the Titanic. Wondering in only hushed voices about the ones we left behind.
Melodrama aside, if travelocity is suggesting that you will be fine with a 50 minute layover in Zurich, don't listen. Even if you make it, you won't be fine.
Q: Is AirBNB as good as a deal as it seems?
A: Yes! We arrived in Warsaw and my confidence was immediately shaken when we got lost getting off at the wrong stop on the bus to the city. Fortunately we found some nice Polish students who spoke English and taught me to read a bus time table so that wouldn't happen to me again
The main nice thing about staying in an apartment instead of a hotel is the price. For all of our visits, we are paying under $90 per night, mostly closer to 70. We're splitting it 2 ways in our case, but most hosts allow you to split with 3 or more people with little or no up charge. Another nice thing is access to the kitchen. This means big savings when we can grocery shop instead of eating out every single meal. Also, most of the places have all of the other comforts of home like free wifi and cable tv. In this case, we have the apartment to ourselves for the night, but Airbnb also allows you to book a private room in someone else's home, generally for a lower price. You don't get the whole place to yourself, but I can imagine it would be helpful to have constant access to advice from locals.
Q: Should I get a rail Europe pass?
A: Yes and no
The website also gives you an option of booking reservations for a guaranteed seat in addition to your rail pass. Some trains, such as high speed trains and over night trains, require reservations before you can travel. In most cases on raileurope, these reservations cost an extra $13 or $14. However, raileurope also requires you to book reservations before you leave the US because they ship them to your home for an extra $18!! I figured there had to be a way to book reservations once you're actually in Europe, and it turns out I was right.
After Nana and I took a bus tour of the city, I sent her back to the apartment and tried to figure out how to get reservations at the train station. The first ticket agent I tried to talk to didn't speak English. And she wasn't very nice about it. I was just so worn out from 36 hours without sleep and the language barrier was becoming too much, so I just sat on a bench in the middle of a train station and started sobbing.
After about 30 seconds, I realized that nobody noticed I was crying, and I figured there's no point if I'm not getting any sympathy, so I got my act together, found somebody who spoke English, and booked our reservations. Totally free!! Keep in mind that this would have cost $44 to book reservations for both of us over raileurope. I'm not sure that the other reservations will also be free, but it's just good to know that you don't need to plan too far ahead and you definitely don't need to pay the outrageous shipping fees to have your reservations couriered right to your door.
Enjoy the pictures.
More to come from Poland!