Travel tips

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Zohar
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Travel tips

Postby Zohar » Sun Jan 06, 2008 5:49 pm UTC

So I was told this could fit here. A thread for travel tips regarding specific places or just in general. I suggest the first word in each post to be the country it applies to? Would make it easier to find, perhaps.

I'd like to hear some things about Japan. I recently found out the flight isn't terribly expensive and I'm wondering how much it costs to stay there for about, say, three weeks. Also, what are good places to visit? How much time should be spent in Tokyo for example? Any specific resources online you recommend?

Also, if anyone has any questions about Israel I would gladly help. I can give a few tips for western Europe, but I'll answer those if someone asks... I'm not terribly knowledgeable in those areas (not that my IQ drops abroad, just that I don't know much about them. :-P ).
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Re: Travel tips

Postby Izawwlgood » Sun Jan 06, 2008 10:45 pm UTC

I've driven across the US (East to west and west to east!) about 12 times, and spent every spare cent I had during my upperclassmen years in college road tripping around the southwest. I'm missing Georgia, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Maine and Rhode Island from my US experience.
Road tripping tips:
1. No Doz is your friend. That said, sleeping is too, and driving tired is bad. Talking to yourself helps.
2. Grease traps and bars make the best meals. Tip well and talk to the waitress or bartender.
3. Don't listen to classical. Don't listen to techno. You will fall asleep at the wheel.
4. Stop at every roadside attraction that looks interesting. Kansas has the worlds largest Prairie Dog, which is a disapointment but the zoo its at is not. Look up snurtle. Washington has the worlds scariest haunted house and spelunking stop. Every hand painted sign you pass is a missed opportunity to see something totally whacked out insane.
5. Allot at least 20% your total travel time EXTRA. You will not make it on time. Or, bring a lot of coffee, avoid carbs, keep your windows open, grab a rabbit at all opportunities, and get from Mobile AL to LA in 36 hours.
6. bring camping gear, and get as far from the road as possible when using it. Do not trespass if you can help it.
7. When traveling abroad, do not repeat yourself in English louder if they do not understand you.
8. Try the local cuisine. Do not eat McDonalds or Wendy's. You can eat that when you get home. Try something new.
9. Try not to let your tank get below a quarter full.
10. Books on tape.


I'd kill to goto Japan, but generally feel awful being places and not knowing the language, OR even worse, having people speak to me in English. Israeli's party harder then anyone i've ever seen in my life. New Zealand has the most dichotomous landscape between its islands.

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Re: Travel tips

Postby Birdman » Mon Jan 07, 2008 3:41 am UTC

Japan's great. I've only been for a week, but had a great time.
If you're going to do much travelleing between cities get one of the JR rail passes. They cost a bit up front, but unlimited shinkansen (and all other Japan Rail lines) travel is worth a lot. I think mine paid for itself after two trips.
I only had primary school Japanese but a teensy Japanese-English / English-japanese dictionary and reading a grammar book on the flight over saw me through. That, and the fact most Japanese are more fluent in English than many Australians...
If you go in season, climb Mt Fuji. Stay overnight on the slope. We did it in one day and missed the last bus back to town. And were hit by a typhoon.
Overall it wasn't too expensive. Accomodation could be had quite cheaply in Ryokan (inns, or the equivalent of backpackers' hostels). There are expensive (and very nice) Ryokan too. We never bought fresh food to cook for ourselves so I don't know whether that was expensive (pretty sure it is). Eating out was affordable and excellent (except when my dopey companion wanted to go to Denny's).
The Lonely Planet guide was handy planning the trip but not spectacularly wonderful. We (I) lost ours early on and we never wanted for it.

My only other travel tip is "work for an airline".

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Re: Travel tips

Postby Ollie » Tue Jan 08, 2008 9:54 am UTC

Izawwlgood wrote:I'd kill to goto Japan, but generally feel awful being places and not knowing the language, OR even worse, having people speak to me in English.


Thanks for adding the great road trip advice here. I admire your respect for other people, but I've also heard that in Japan people often enjoy speaking to you in English and will go out of their way to do so in order to practice "in the field". I was in Japan for a couple weeks, although sadly, it wasn't until a year later that I learned some elementary Japanese (I would recommend spending at least a few weeks learning some basic phrases and some Katakana / Hiragana just to remember and possibly pronounce signs). Still, I found people for the most part not offended, and even glad to (attempt) to talk in English.

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Re: Travel tips

Postby Pixel » Tue Jan 08, 2008 2:57 pm UTC

Izawwlgood wrote:5. Allot at least 20% your total travel time EXTRA. You will not make it on time. Or, bring a lot of coffee, avoid carbs, keep your windows open, grab a rabbit at all opportunities, and get from Mobile AL to LA in 36 hours.


I just had this great visual of a rabbit sitting on the side of the road eating a dandelion, there is the roar of a passing car, a screech of tires, and the car backs quickly back into frame. A hand reaches down and with a surprised shriek the rabbit vanishes upwards, followed by the sound of a rapidly accelerating car.
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Re: Travel tips

Postby Kizyr » Tue Jan 08, 2008 4:00 pm UTC

Warning: very long post ahead. I made these posts for someone a while back asking about taking her honeymoon in Japan. She had about two weeks; so I'm C&Ping a lot of that here. First, though, a quick response to some specific questions...

Zohar wrote:I'd like to hear some things about Japan. I recently found out the flight isn't terribly expensive and I'm wondering how much it costs to stay there for about, say, three weeks. Also, what are good places to visit? How much time should be spent in Tokyo for example? Any specific resources online you recommend?

It'll be expensive for three weeks unless you're up for staying in hostels and the like. A good one might run you only $25-$30 a night (I stayed at one place in Kyoto for that little). Good places to visit include, from north-to-south: Sapporo, Karuizawa, Tochigi, Tokyo (depending on the person), Nara, Kyoto, Hiroshima, and Miyajima, and maybe Okinawa if you can actually get there. Around Shikoku I hear is nice, too. Not all of those are easy to get to, however (esp. Karuizawa, for instance--that's more for Japanese tourists).

The JR pass is also good if you're there for 2 weeks or more. However, last I recall, you can only get a 1-week or 2-week pass, not a 3-week one (er, well, you might could get a 2- and 1-week pass... but ask the JTB about that). Keep in mind, though, that the JR pass does not work for shinkansen lines. It can take 3 hours for Tokyo-to-Kyoto by shinkansen, but about 6-10 hours by JR (depending on express vs local, etc.). (RECENT EDITS: The JR Pass does work for the shinkansen. You can use the Hikari and Kodama lines, but not the super-express Nozomi. The Hikari is only marginally slower than the Nozomi, although not as awesome. Additionally, you can get a 3-week JR Pass.)

Anyway, here's the long part of the post. I omitted some parts that were a direct reference to the person I was originally talking to, who was going with her husband there:
__________________________________________________

First, forget Tokyo. The place is huge, overwhelming, way too crowded, and horridly expensive. [edit: personal opinion--you may differ].

Well, you don't have to forget Tokyo, but you have two full weeks. So I strongly recommend not spending more than 2-3 days in Tokyo. (The only reason I kind of enjoyed it was because my uncle had a house in Shibuya--yeah, a house--while I was there, so I had free lodging and meals. Even then I tried to get out to the surrounding prefectures).

Step 1: Getting Around

Now then, because you have two weeks, I highly recommend getting a JTB JR pass. There are several different rail companies in the country, but JR is nationwide. You can purchase a pass from the Japan Travel Bureau (http://www.jtbusa.com/). Check the JTB Pass page here (http://www.jtbusa.com/enhome/jrpasstop.asp)--I recommend either getting the JR Pass which covers all lines, or the JR West pass since that's where Kyoto, Nara, Hiroshima, Miyajima, and Osaka are.

Now, the JR pass is an unlimited-use pass for most JR lines, but not the Shinkansen lines--Shinkansen is a bit expensive ($100 to get from Tokyo to Nagoya, more to go further like up to Kyoto, Hiroshima, or Osaka). The down-side is that the JR trains you can get on will be slower (it's 2 hours by Shinkansen to Nagoya, but 4 hours by regular JR lines). It depends on if time or money is your greater concern--but still, don't stick around in Tokyo! You'll miss the better parts of the country!

Anyway, when planning a trip to another city, then you should either be pretty good at reading rail maps, or you should ask someone at a tourist center. If you're ever unsure about if you can board at a platform with your JR pass, then just show the pass to the attendant at the gate and ask (in English, preferably) if you can go on the train with that. 99.9% of the station attendants will be extremely helpful, even if they can't entirely understand you.

Step 2: Lodging

Lodging is typically very expensive, and depends on how comfortable you are with different kinds. 3/4-star hotels, particularly in cities, can range from expensive (in major cities) to unaffordable (in Tokyo--which is why I'm saying not to spend too long there). You might find some good deals, though, depending on how you booked.

As for alternatives to hotels, there are two. The first is hostels. You'll typically have to look these up online or elsewise before going, be pretty good with directions, and be comfortable with sharing rooms with strangers. Also, some might not have showers or baths in the building itself, but you'll need to go to a public bathhouse for that--now, I happen to like them, but they're not for everybody.

The second are ryokan, or Japanese-style inns. These can be quite expensive, and I don't recommend them generally, but try to stay in one for at least one or two nights! They're incredibly comfortable, and the staff can be incredibly hospitable. You won't regret it. (I'll recommend below where I think you might should stay in one.)

Step 3: Eating

Every place has a specialty. In Hiroshima it's okonomiyaki, in Nagoya it's kishimen, in Tochigi prefecture it's soba. If you can find out the local specialty, try to find a restaurant that specializes in that, well, specialty (in Hiroshima it's easy--look for a stand with barstools around and a guy making okonomiyaki in the middle).

If you're staying at a ryokan, then try the meals there at least once (the decent ones will have a dining room or something similar where you can be served). Once is enough 'cause you'll eat like royalty. Hey, it's your honeymoon, you should go all-out... at least somewhat.

On the road, most shops will specialize in a certain type of food or cuisine. You can usually tell on the outside what they have, and even if no one there speaks English, they'll understand if you point at a particular item (and prices are listed with tax included, always, and there's no tipping--so what you see is what you pay). But, general rule of thumb is that if it looks good, then go ahead and try it. Except natto, but that looks disgusting anyway.

Kaiten-zushi (conveyor-belt sushi) is another good stop, particularly if you're not very hungry and don't want to pay a lot. Pay attention to the pricing scheme they have (most price it by the color of the plate, ranging from 100Yen to 1000Yen); they'll typically also have 'sides' like shrimp miso soup if you ask for it ("ebi miso shiru"). Don't trust places that have all 100Yen plates, though.

If you want to go bar-hopping, then make sure you check out an izakaya (居酒屋) and not a 'snack' (スナック). The latter are usually in shadier places anyway. Izakaya can have a really nice set up and typically have really good food with them as well.

Step 4A: Tokyo

If you must stick around Tokyo, then I'll give a quick rundown of some of the places I liked... These are all downtown, and you can make the circle on the Yamanote-line (the 'green line' for the JR) on all these major spots. (The stops are named after these places, too.)

Shibuya
Pretty vibrant nightlife, even if you just feel like wandering the streets. Which is usually what I did. This is usually where folks from about 16-25 or so hang out.

Roppongi
Don't go at night unless clubbing or bar-hopping is your thing (that being said, most Japanese bars--izakaya--are pretty good places). If you go here in the daytime, then go to Roppongi Hills--it's a massive shopping and cultural center for the area (http://www.roppongihills.com/en/).

Harajuku
This is fun to go just for people-watching. You can see tons of girls going around in all elaborate Gothic Lolita costumes. Don't be afraid to ask for a photo.

Ueno
The park is lovely. If the fall colors are coming in the trees, then I recommend going to Ueno Park.

Akihabara
This was my favorite place in Tokyo. Make sure you exit out the end that says "Electronics Town" (電池町, I think--it'll look like: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ljnsn2_Hs8Q). The major-name shops are Tora no Ana (books and manga--don't browse the doujinshi), LAOX (games and more), and ASO Bit City (games and more, but they were renovating or something last time I was there--but that was in 2004). I also really like going onto the side roads and checking out back-alley used game shops, but have a decent sense of direction if you want to do that.

There's also all the usual tourist spots, like the Meiji Shrine and what not. In all honesty, I found them bland. The Meiji Shrine you can't go that far into, and even if you can it's so bloody crowded. If you skip it you really won't miss a whole lot, if you ask me...

Oh, and Yokohama... There's the port and not a whole lot else except for really big buildings. If you ask me, I'd skip it altogether and use the time to get elsewhere in the country.

Step 4B: Mt. Fuji

Mt. Fuji is beautiful, and takes an entire day to check out. Make sure you have some reliable transport to get up towards the top (your friend, if he has a car, might be able to help you out there). Since it seems you're already planning on this, I'll move on.

Step 4C: Nara

Nara has a stop on JR, but not on Shinkansen if I recall correctly... It comes before Kyoto if you're headed from Tokyo's direction.

Nara takes just one day to go around most of it. While there, make sure to see the Daibutsu (the giant Buddha statue) and some of the major temples there. You can pick up a map of the area (most of it is walkable--there's little or no mass transit within the city) from any tourist center or kiosk there.

The biscuits in the street vending machine are for the deer. Don't buy them as souveniers for people unless you really don't like them.

Step 4D: Kyoto

I have a curse with Kyoto. If I go it rains. Heavily. There's a saying that Kyoto looks best in the rain, but I don't have any basis for comparison. You'll probably want to spend 2-3 days here for a comfortable vacation.

Anyway, when I went last time, I stayed at a youth hostel with some friends. You might want to spring for a ryokan instead, although since it's tourist central for Japan then those might get real expensive. So plan accordingly.

Now then, there're a million shrines in the city. Take a tourist map from a kiosk or someplace, and check out the ones you want to see. If you and your husband don't mind a lot of walking, walk around downtown to most of the places--you might just happen upon a shrine, cemetary, or other lovely landmark along the way. The main thing to see is probably the "Golden Temple", in the west side of the city.

Kyoto has a small subway system, and a bus system. I had no problem with the bus, but other people I know have had problems with it. Hence, well, walking and perhaps 1-2 taxi rides might be a better bet for you.

Step 4E: Osaka

Osaka is the second largest city in Japan. ...I've never been, so sorry, I can't help you there. It's a short distance from Kyoto, however, so it'd be your next stop if you want to stay here.

Step 4F: Hiroshima

Hiroshima is a really, really wonderful city. You can spend 1-2 days here. You'll have to see the Peace Park in the center of the city, just south of where the bomb fell. If you like baseball by chance, the Hiroshima Giants stadium is a bit northeast from the park.

Hiroshima has a convenient light rail system that goes through most of the city, and further south to a port where you can get to your next stop...

Step 4G: Miyajima

Miyajima! Go to Miyajima! Seriously, if you go to no other place in Japan, then at least go here! You can spend 2 or so days here, but hell, I could spend an entire week.

Miyajima is just off the coast of Hiroshima. It's absolutely, positively gorgeous. It's where you'll find the Ise Shrine (with the famous Torii gate), more deer like in Nara, and some wonderful natural scenery. Hike up the trail to the top of the mountain / hill there; you'll catch the most beautiful scenery in the entire country.

This is one place where, if nowhere else, you want to stay at a ryokan. The one I stayed at had a bath at the top of the inn, where I stopped in at sunrise each day (most folks take baths in the evening though).

If you're comfortable enough, you might want to try checking out an onsen (hot springs) some time, at any point along your journey. Obviously you and your husband won't be going into the same one (there are some mixed-springs, but they're rare). I should warn you, though, that some of my female friends have had issues with women bringing their male children in--babies are typically acceptable, but some women don't get the hint when their boy is, like, 6-7 years old that he shouldn't be there.

Step 5: Other Places

So... Other places might include Nagoya, which is a great city to live in but unfortunately doesn't offer a lot for tourists. Karuizawa, which is up in the mountains near Nagano and has tons of wonderful hot-springs and baths. Sapporo in Hokkaido (way to the north). And Okinawa (wayyyyy to the south--you'll need a flight to get there).
__________________________________________________

I had a few other follow-up posts, including a two-week plan I drew up as a possible suggestion, if you'd like to hear that. Anyway, that's more than enough for now, I think. KF
Last edited by Kizyr on Fri May 08, 2009 8:48 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Travel tips

Postby Zohar » Tue Jan 08, 2008 4:33 pm UTC

Kizyr wrote:Lots of awesome detailed stuff.


This was great, very helpful. I should mention that I won't be going until, probably, the end of 2008 or so. I'm planning to take a Japanese course sometime in September or something and after that we'll see. I have no problems staying at hostels, either, so I hope that would lower the cost.

What's a good time to fly there? I hear summers can be a bitch, but how's winter?

What can you tell me about vegetarian food there? I eat egg and dairy products but no fish, sea food or any other meat. Is it true you can usually say you're a Buddhist and they'll steer you away from meat? What about buying stuff in local grocery stores? I heard that's a pretty cheap way to get reasonable food.
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Re: Travel tips

Postby Kizyr » Tue Jan 08, 2008 11:57 pm UTC

Re-reading that post, I appear to not have removed all the references to the person for whom I originally wrote that. So just ignore the stuff about said person's husband and all.

Zohar wrote:This was great, very helpful. I should mention that I won't be going until, probably, the end of 2008 or so. I'm planning to take a Japanese course sometime in September or something and after that we'll see. I have no problems staying at hostels, either, so I hope that would lower the cost.

Sounds like a good plan. I strongly recommend getting a list and addresses/directions of hostels, and getting a plan/itinerary together, before you depart. Just to avoid the chance of arriving late at night someplace and utterly lost. Oh, and pack light, of course.

Another option is to hole up in a 24-hour internet cafe. It can maybe run you 1000~2000 yen, depending on the place. A third option is love hotels, but I don't know the hourly rate for them offhand.

Zohar wrote:What's a good time to fly there? I hear summers can be a bitch, but how's winter?

Well, I hate the cold, so I wouldn't like winter either way. The springtime weather tends to be the best, overall, so I'd recommend going then. However, you'll want to avoid major holiday periods like Golden Week (end of April/early May) to avoid a crowd. During Obon (summer--June or July I think) lots of stuff is also closed, so you might want to avoid that time period as well, assuming you're flexible.

Zohar wrote:What can you tell me about vegetarian food there? I eat egg and dairy products but no fish, sea food or any other meat. Is it true you can usually say you're a Buddhist and they'll steer you away from meat? What about buying stuff in local grocery stores? I heard that's a pretty cheap way to get reasonable food.

Hm... No seafood might make things a little difficult. I stick to only halal meat, so that effectively made me a vegetarian, but since there aren't any restrictions on seafood I was still able to eat most of the food around me.

Few people are vegetarian (and most are Shinto/Buddhist, so I don't think that'll get you anywhere particularly). However, people are generally really polite and straightforward about the ingredients in their food. If you ask if there's any meat, or any fish/seafood, in something, they'll be able to tell you. Keep in mind, though, that meat and seafood are considered different things, and that things like miso soup have bonito (a fish product) in it.

You should be able to get by on rice, noodles, vegetables, tofu, eggs, etc., even out at restaurants. Keep in mind that most restaurants are specialty places, so if a place specializes in seafood, then you're unlikely to find a vegetarian dish there. KF
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Re: Travel tips

Postby Birdman » Wed Jan 09, 2008 4:03 am UTC

Kizyr:
You may be talking about a different pass, but there is a JR pass which is good for shinkansen lines (except the "super express", I've forgotten the name but it starts with N and isn't much faster anyway). Those passes are good for all other JR services too. They, if I remember correctly, are only available to tourists and must be organised before you leave for Japan. A travel agent can handle it for you.
Ours cost ~AUD$300 each for one week. Well worth it.

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Re: Travel tips

Postby Schema » Thu Jan 10, 2008 6:26 pm UTC

I visited Japan in 2006 with a small group of friends and my 9-month old son (at the time). Bragging pics here:

http://www.jammingsignal.com/photos/japan2006/

Everyone's mentioned Ryokan, JR Passes and such already, so I'll just pass on one suggestion. If you're coming from a long way away, save Tokyo for the end of your trip! It's a bit overwhelming and if you're suffering from jet lag, you won't enjoy it. Hit the countryside (which is beautiful) until you're over the lag.

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Re: Travel tips

Postby Kizyr » Thu Jan 10, 2008 10:04 pm UTC

Birdman wrote:Kizyr:
You may be talking about a different pass, but there is a JR pass which is good for shinkansen lines (except the "super express", I've forgotten the name but it starts with N and isn't much faster anyway). Those passes are good for all other JR services too. They, if I remember correctly, are only available to tourists and must be organised before you leave for Japan. A travel agent can handle it for you.
Ours cost ~AUD$300 each for one week. Well worth it.


That would be the Nozomi line. The Nozomi line is often faster in that it's usually a straight-shot between major cities (I used that to go Nagoya-Tokyo straight [Shinagawa station] the quickest; no stops in between).

The pass you mention, it might be new or I just haven't heard of it. Either way, I'm sure it's a good thing to look for--it sounds like a pretty good deal from what you described. The last time I was there in 2004 was long-term, though (that is, 5 months, as opposed to only a few weeks), so I never had any reason to look personally into getting any JR pass. KF
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Re: Travel tips

Postby parkaboy » Sat Jan 26, 2008 10:22 pm UTC

Preparing for travel question: good flight deals!!

Saving money is always awesome, especially if its just getting where you're going. I've checked out several "discount" websites like expedia and priceline, but they are all the same prices as if you just went to each airlines website. Are there really any ways to get a better deal on airfare? I ask because I'll be visiting Boston more frequently than I had thought, with a trip coming up soon. I can easily afford the prices i've found, but like i said, saving money is always great. Anyone have any tricks, tips or super secret websites to accomplish this? I've already looked at Jet Blue... apparently kansas and missouri don't exist to them. =(
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Re: Travel tips

Postby Kizyr » Mon Jan 28, 2008 6:40 am UTC

parkaboy wrote:Preparing for travel question: good flight deals!!

Saving money is always awesome, especially if its just getting where you're going. I've checked out several "discount" websites like expedia and priceline, but they are all the same prices as if you just went to each airlines website. Are there really any ways to get a better deal on airfare? I ask because I'll be visiting Boston more frequently than I had thought, with a trip coming up soon. I can easily afford the prices i've found, but like i said, saving money is always great. Anyone have any tricks, tips or super secret websites to accomplish this? I've already looked at Jet Blue... apparently kansas and missouri don't exist to them. =(


JetBlue has limited routes since it's a smaller carrier; they don't fly to every airport in the country. Southwest, similarly, doesn't have regular flights to every airport, so you won't always get the flights you want there, either. But, it'll tend t be really cheap if you happen to be flying one of their regular routes.

The main way to get a better deal on airfare is know when to purchase your tickets. Usually about a month or more in advance is best, and try to include a weekend stay in there (e.g., leave during the weekdays, return sometime during the following week). Those tend to drop the price of your ticket down. Other than that, the only drastic reduction usually tends to be finding a way to get on Southwest/JetBlue/other carrier's popular routes, which might not be available depending on where you want to go. KF
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Re: Travel tips

Postby wing » Mon Jan 28, 2008 7:08 am UTC

parkaboy wrote:Preparing for travel question: good flight deals!!

Saving money is always awesome, especially if its just getting where you're going. I've checked out several "discount" websites like expedia and priceline, but they are all the same prices as if you just went to each airlines website. Are there really any ways to get a better deal on airfare? I ask because I'll be visiting Boston more frequently than I had thought, with a trip coming up soon. I can easily afford the prices i've found, but like i said, saving money is always great. Anyone have any tricks, tips or super secret websites to accomplish this? I've already looked at Jet Blue... apparently kansas and missouri don't exist to them. =(

You're probably going to lol at this but - UNITED. For my particular routes, they tend to be the cheapest game in town.

Try to do your flying on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. Periods within 2-3 weeks in either direction of a major holiday are always more expensive. Always book at least a month in advance. Travelocity is the only one of those "discount" sites I've ever looked at that had any real point to it - it's always a few dollars more expensive if you're just getting a flight, but they come out SIGNIFICANTLY cheaper if you need a hotel room. Their ties are with the hotels, not the airlines.

If you think you might need a refundable ticket, make sure you pay attention to how much extra it costs. I've seen several times where the refundable ticket costs more than twice as much as the nonrefundable ticket... So it's cheaper just to get the nonrefundable and eat it. If you're going to fly a route more than a few times, find an airline that's cheap on that route and stick to it. Enroll in frequent flier programs for every airline you fly on - no matter how infrequently you intend to use them.

Pay attention to the "Use nearby airports" button.
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Re: Travel tips

Postby parkaboy » Mon Jan 28, 2008 2:50 pm UTC

well, hotel aside, it looks like i've done everything that i should be doing to get the best deals... i'm going at the end of march, i plan to purchase my tickets in the next week or so, i'm flying on wednesday and coming back monday... thanks for the advice ^_^
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Re: Travel tips

Postby eds01 » Sun Feb 10, 2008 7:03 pm UTC

I'm heading over to Israel this summer via Birthright, and I'm planning to stay an extra week or so. I have a third cousin over in Haifa, and I'm currently taking Capoeira, and there's a group in Haifa that's part of the same association (their mestre trained under our mestre), so there's a decent chance that I can find somewhere to stay. Last time I was in Israel was 5 or so years ago, back when I had my Bar Mitzvah. I'm Vegitarian now, but from what I remember of the food in Israel, there's a good amount of vegitarian food there. Anything you think I should know.

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Re: Travel tips

Postby Zohar » Sun Feb 10, 2008 7:12 pm UTC

I'm vegetarian and in Israel. There's not problem with food. It's much simpler here because almost anything you buy has a kosher tag on it (except fish, which are not considered meat).

Most restaurants (except perhaps fish restaurants or middle-eastern ones) have good veggie alternatives. You should be fine. I have a lot more trouble abroad than I do here. Just be sure (depending on how extreme you are) to ask about the use of non-vegetarian stocks or broths, as well as fish, dairy and eggs. Rarely someone might think poultry is OK, so might as well make sure to ask about that.

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Re: Travel tips

Postby ZZCat13 » Mon Feb 11, 2008 7:30 am UTC

Hello -

I'm also planning a (second) trip to Japan for sometime next year. Here are some tips that some of my friends gave me that I found very helpful (sorry for the length, but what can ya do?):

Register your itinerary with the US embassy in Japan. That way, if something goes wrong there's an agency that knows you're in the country and that can help you. Also make sure your health insurance does international coverage; if not there is relatively cheap temporary health insurance for travelers you can probably purchase through your travel agent.

The JR Rail Pass is a life saver. It's around $250 USD for 7 days, $400 for 14 days, and so on. You MUST get this outside of Japan no more than three months ahead of time. It works on most Shinkansen lines except the Nozomi and Hikari (I think). One caveat is that a lot of lines in Kyoto are privately owned, so you will pay out of pocket for those, whereas most in Tokyo and other major cities are JR owned. The best thing to do in Kyoto if you're staying more than a couple days is to spend $20 on a rail card. You can buy them at the machines in the rail stations, and they're good for most trains, buses, and subways.

Some cities, like Kyoto and Hiroshima, offer "Goodwill Guides" that speak English and will guide you for free (you just have to pay their transportation and, if you eat with them, food costs). I highly recommend requesting a guide for the first day or two so they can show you how to get around, and they are very helpful and wonderful (plus the college students are a lot of fun :P)

Buy your international phone cards outside of Japan. It just saves a lot of grief. You can also rent a cellphone for relatively cheap (about $50 for a week and a half).

Buy yourself some clean, matching pairs of socks. It sounds strange, but if you go into a nice restaurant or into someone's house, you'll have to take off your shoes, and you probably don't want to display your grungy, holey socks :P

If you like your tea sweetened (like I do), swipe sugar packets from a restaurant and pack them before you leave so you can add it to your tea. ALL the tea in Japan, whether in restaurants or vending machines, is unsweetened and can come as a shocker if you're not expecting it. Also, learn the characters for things like "water", "beer", "tea", etc. - it'll help quite a bit when you're standing in front of a vending machine scratching your head and wondering what the hell to buy.

Someone mentioned above youth hostels - these are generally great; the only thing I would highly suggest you do is make reservations as soon as you know your traveling dates since they tend to fill up fast, especially on weekends. In fact, make reservations for as many things as you can.

One option that looks like a lot of fun (I didn't get around to it the first time, but I want to try the second time) is staying in a Buddhist temple overnight. You get a vegetarian meal, and if you get up early enough, you can see the morning rituals. The most popular destination seems to be Mt. Koya.

Food costs don't have to be exorbitant. Honestly, most of what's served in the more high-end restaurants is not very different from what you can get down in Little Tokyo or your cities' equivalent. I survived mostly on food stalls, markets, and bakeries, and not only can you see that I'm still alive (I think), it was delicious.

At the end of each day, I sat down and planned the trains and buses and which street to turn on where and whatnot for the next day. I collected maps like a kleptomaniac. If you're like me and "directionally impaired" (as my friends and relatives call it), this is extremely helpful as you're less likely to get lost and frustrated.
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Re: Travel tips

Postby Dreidel » Tue Feb 19, 2008 11:30 am UTC

So, I'm planning a trip to Germany/Austria (maybe Switzerland, too) in summer, 2009. I'm already taking German courses right now and have a passport, so the basic, obvious things that I can (or should) do this far in advance are taken care of. However, I'm looking for travel tips while there. I've heard a little about youth hostels and train passes, but I'm wondering if anyone who's been there recently can give me some good advice about things to do, times to go, places to see, and other things I should know about that no German class will teach me.

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Re: Travel tips

Postby silent man » Wed Mar 19, 2008 8:54 pm UTC

As part of my apprenticeship, the company is sending me to Shanghai for three weeks to gather experience.
If anyone has any tips for Shanghai or China in general, I would very much appreciate it.

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Re: Travel tips

Postby Zohar » Thu Mar 20, 2008 1:33 pm UTC

Dreidel wrote:So, I'm planning a trip to Germany/Austria (maybe Switzerland, too) in summer, 2009. I'm already taking German courses right now and have a passport, so the basic, obvious things that I can (or should) do this far in advance are taken care of. However, I'm looking for travel tips while there. I've heard a little about youth hostels and train passes, but I'm wondering if anyone who's been there recently can give me some good advice about things to do, times to go, places to see, and other things I should know about that no German class will teach me.


I don't know much but I hear Berlin is supposed to be a wonderful city, I'm really looking forward to visiting it sometime. And I don't know how it is in the US or other places, but it's very common to stay in youth hostels in Europe. Just search for "hostels Germany" on Google and you should find plenty of websites with reviews and ratings of various hostels there.
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Re: Travel tips

Postby fishyfish777 » Tue Apr 01, 2008 10:15 pm UTC

When flying to Japan, be sure to take the inside seat, you actually can watch the movie. :wink:
Also buy as much Black Jack gum as possible. I usually get up earlier when I get TO Japan, I just find myself waking at 2PM when I get BACK. I don't know why.

I'm planning to go to japan this year's summer :D Hella expensive though. :? 1000 dollars for each ticket. Wow.

Another tip: The yogurt is good, and you won't get instant ramen through security. you WON'T GET INSTANT RAMEN THROUGH SECURITY.

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Re: Travel tips

Postby alexjhh » Fri Apr 11, 2008 8:08 pm UTC

Dreidel wrote:Stuff about going to Germany....


Are you going to tour around? I've spent a bit of time there, and loved it. Berlin is a fantastic and modern city - if you're going to take a walking tour, I'd recommend the 'New' tours, they're free (work on a tips basis), and the tour guides that I met were all really friendly, knowing quite a lot more than I'd expect them to, to be honest. They were also pretty informal, rather than the tour-robots you quite often get. I think they have a website at http://www.newberlintours.com/nbt/ That should set you up with some ideas as to what else you'd like to visit and take a look around.

As to other places in Germany, the Black Forest is always worth a few days to take some walks around and whatnot. I stayed in a town/city called Freiburg, which is pretty lively (a student town). It only has the one hostel that I know of, so you'd be well advised to book - they seemed booked pretty solid and were rather strict (read: threw me out while i was being sick everywhere due to food poisoning/dehydration).

I took a walk in the alps from a town called Garmisch-Partenkirchen, which is possible to get to from Munich, although If you're heading to somewhere in Austria and whatnot, it might be easier to get to from there. Tip - it gets warm up there in the summer, and was the cause of a lot of my dehydration, as well as the terrain being harder than it seems at first. Boots and lots of water are your friend.

Munich is also great. 2 words. Beer halls. The hoffbrauhaus is the famous one. It's massive, and admittedly it's a bit touristy, but it still had a great atmosphere and I met some great people there.

Try and stay in hostels with bars when you can - it's the easiest way to meet people who are likely to want to see places as much as you are - I only stay at a hostel without a bar when travelling alone unless I absolutely have to.

That's what I can think of off the top of my head, but feel free to ask any other questions that you can think of - I'll answer them as best I can.

Oh - http://www.hostelworld.com is a site I used for the few times that I booked in advance, and often has A4 sized city guides that can fold up and fit in your pocket - they have a list of great bars/food places and attractions on, as well as other tips. Well worth the registration.
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Re: Travel tips

Postby Neris » Mon Apr 14, 2008 4:55 pm UTC

fishyfish777 wrote:When flying to Japan, be sure to take the inside seat, you actually can watch the movie. :wink:
Also buy as much Black Jack gum as possible. I usually get up earlier when I get TO Japan, I just find myself waking at 2PM when I get BACK. I don't know why.

I'm planning to go to japan this year's summer :D Hella expensive though. :? 1000 dollars for each ticket. Wow.

Another tip: The yogurt is good, and you won't get instant ramen through security. you WON'T GET INSTANT RAMEN THROUGH SECURITY.

each ticket? you got ripped off.
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Re: Travel tips

Postby Arancaytar » Fri Apr 18, 2008 12:59 pm UTC

fishyfish777 wrote:you won't get instant ramen through security. you WON'T GET INSTANT RAMEN THROUGH SECURITY.


Huh. Is this explained?
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Re: Travel tips

Postby Kizyr » Fri Apr 18, 2008 7:23 pm UTC

Arancaytar wrote:
fishyfish777 wrote:you won't get instant ramen through security. you WON'T GET INSTANT RAMEN THROUGH SECURITY.

Huh. Is this explained?

Instant ramen is classified as a toxin in some parts of the world.

...like my kitchen.

Neris wrote:each ticket? you got ripped off.

...that would depend on where he was flying from. Tickets to Japan can be anywhere fro $200 to, oh, $5000. Within the US, anywhere between $500 and $3000; possibly more. KF
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Re: Travel tips

Postby thecommabandit » Thu Apr 24, 2008 2:14 pm UTC

Zohar wrote:
Dreidel wrote:So, I'm planning a trip to Germany/Austria (maybe Switzerland, too) in summer, 2009. I'm already taking German courses right now and have a passport, so the basic, obvious things that I can (or should) do this far in advance are taken care of. However, I'm looking for travel tips while there. I've heard a little about youth hostels and train passes, but I'm wondering if anyone who's been there recently can give me some good advice about things to do, times to go, places to see, and other things I should know about that no German class will teach me.


I don't know much but I hear Berlin is supposed to be a wonderful city, I'm really looking forward to visiting it sometime. And I don't know how it is in the US or other places, but it's very common to stay in youth hostels in Europe. Just search for "hostels Germany" on Google and you should find plenty of websites with reviews and ratings of various hostels there.

I went to Berlin a few years ago. It is a fantastic city. It is exceptionally clean in most places (I remember the streets practically shining in and around Alexanderplatz) and has an amazingly convenient underground system. When I went there I, being a silly tourist, bought a week-long train pass but never saw any railway staff at all except for those on regional trains (from the airport into Berlin proper).

I didn't actually stay in a hostel in Berlin, but hostels are brilliant elsewhere and I'd expect them to be similar in Berlin.
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Re: Travel tips

Postby miles01110 » Mon Apr 28, 2008 5:13 pm UTC

Has anyone used Airtech (link) to buy airpasses / e-passes? I am curious to try them out but would rather not if they are a scam or something.

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Re: Travel tips

Postby Dreidel » Wed Apr 30, 2008 12:35 pm UTC

Thanks for the advice. Anyone know what the cheapest way to get to Germany is from the states? I live out west, so I know I'll have to get to the east coast first, but are there any tricks to it, such as landing in a closer country first?

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Re: Travel tips

Postby wing » Thu May 01, 2008 4:31 am UTC

Dreidel wrote:Thanks for the advice. Anyone know what the cheapest way to get to Germany is from the states? I live out west, so I know I'll have to get to the east coast first, but are there any tricks to it, such as landing in a closer country first?

Lufthansa flies out of most of the major US hub airports, including the ones on the west coast. It should be cheaper to fly direct than to bother flying through the American airline system to get to an east coast hub.
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Re: Travel tips

Postby lazarus89 » Tue May 06, 2008 11:21 pm UTC

I've got some money saved up and a month and a half of leave coming up at the end of this year. I'm looking to head to New Zealand and Australia... does anyone have any suggestions?
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Re: Travel tips

Postby Bugs » Thu May 22, 2008 2:56 pm UTC

For finding cheap flights, I use this website: http://matrix.itasoftware.com/cvg/dispatch/login
It seems to be a test version of the database that lots of airlines and travel agencies use. Log in as a guest, enter your requirements and search. It checks all the airlines I've heard of and a few more. The interface isn't fantastic but it's a very powerful tool: you can tell it to prioritise trip time or price, to search a couple of days either side of your planned dates, etc. Although it tells you prices, you can't by any flights from them; you need to note the flight details and buy from the airline's website.

If you have a free weekend but no inspiration: http://flightchecker.moneysavingexpert.com/
Tell it when you have some free days and your budget then click "I'll go anywhere!". It searches the databases of various budget airlines then gives a list of everywhere you could go on those days and within your budget. Great if you have a long weekend free and a bit of spare cash :D.
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Re: Travel tips

Postby sparkyb » Sun May 25, 2008 4:39 am UTC

parkaboy wrote:Preparing for travel question: good flight deals!!

Saving money is always awesome, especially if its just getting where you're going. I've checked out several "discount" websites like expedia and priceline, but they are all the same prices as if you just went to each airlines website. Are there really any ways to get a better deal on airfare? I ask because I'll be visiting Boston more frequently than I had thought, with a trip coming up soon. I can easily afford the prices i've found, but like i said, saving money is always great. Anyone have any tricks, tips or super secret websites to accomplish this? I've already looked at Jet Blue... apparently kansas and missouri don't exist to them. =(


This post was kind of old, but the thread was still active so here goes. No one mentioned this yet so I thought I should suggest kayak.com. If expedia and orbitz are the flight aggregators then kayak is the flight aggregator aggregator. It searches airlines and a bunch of those aggregator sites (expedia, orbitz, cheaptickets, etc). It doesn't really have better deals I just think it is the best at sorting what is a lot of information. It is a very clean site, not as commercial as those other aggregators and it just redirects you for purchasing so they don't charge a fee like some of those services that let you book through them. I also just in general find their search options, interface, and speed to be the best. However I've noticed they don't search Southwest, so I do that search separately.

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Re: Travel tips

Postby Sartorius » Sun May 25, 2008 5:45 am UTC

wing wrote:
Dreidel wrote:Thanks for the advice. Anyone know what the cheapest way to get to Germany is from the states? I live out west, so I know I'll have to get to the east coast first, but are there any tricks to it, such as landing in a closer country first?

Lufthansa flies out of most of the major US hub airports, including the ones on the west coast. It should be cheaper to fly direct than to bother flying through the American airline system to get to an east coast hub.


Another option is to fly British Airways and get a penny (if you book at the right time, the flight can really truly only cost a penny) flight using Ryan Air or other discount fliers to the mainland. Be warned, though, that these airlines charge for bag weight, etc, that large airlines do not, and tend to land in the middle of nowhere in former WWII British airbases. However, you get a great view of the countryside while driving to a city.
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Re: Travel tips

Postby silent man » Mon May 26, 2008 3:56 pm UTC

Sartorius wrote:Another option is to fly British Airways and get a penny (if you book at the right time, the flight can really truly only cost a penny) flight using Ryan Air or other discount fliers to the mainland.


True, the flight itself costs only a penny (or a cent or whatever). You'll still have to pay airport fees and taxes, though. It'll be in the range of 15 to 20€ I think, but that might be for bigger airports.
And if the airline is feeling funny, they might add a fee for ordering the tickets online. And another one for paying with a credit card.
And then you'll have to pay for the bus transfer from and to the airport, unless you're going to rent a car anyway.


Now I'm not saying that you shouldn't look at offers from Ryanair, etc. In a lot of cases they'll still be cheaper than the big airlines. I'm just warning you to keep in mind that the price in the ads is just the tip of the iceberg.

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Re: Travel tips

Postby Sartorius » Mon Jun 02, 2008 12:49 am UTC

Yes, I tried to imply that by adding the warning that the discount flyers charge for baggage weight and such, but I think you presented that point more effectively than I did.
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Re: Travel tips

Postby '; DROP DATABASE;-- » Fri Jun 13, 2008 9:16 am UTC

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Re: Travel tips

Postby cj-maranup » Thu Jun 26, 2008 5:11 pm UTC

A website I use a lot for flights in Europe is skyscanner.net - it includes the taxes in the price which is handy although it doesn't account for the new bastardry of charging for checking in at the airport, having bags etc.

@lazarus - New Zealand is stunningly beautiful if you're into landscapes & mountains :) Australia will definitely take planning because it's so big - a month will hardly scratch the surface. I am prejudiced in favour of the west but I'll admit that Perth is a long way to go & not necessarily the most exciting place to be a tourist! The countryside is lovely tho, especially if you're into beaches or forests, the southwest is great :) depends a bit what you're looking for - Sydney & Melbourne obviously have more big city & 'cultural' stuff.
Last edited by cj-maranup on Sun Jun 29, 2008 9:58 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Travel tips

Postby random_kitty » Fri Jun 27, 2008 10:35 am UTC

lazarus89 wrote:I've got some money saved up and a month and a half of leave coming up at the end of this year. I'm looking to head to New Zealand and Australia... does anyone have any suggestions?


Not sure if you are checking back on this thread - but I live in New Zealand so PM me if you have questions.
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Re: Travel tips

Postby SpitValve » Thu Jul 03, 2008 4:12 pm UTC

lazarus89 wrote:I've got some money saved up and a month and a half of leave coming up at the end of this year. I'm looking to head to New Zealand and Australia... does anyone have any suggestions?


New Zealand is pretty sweet. It'll take a week to get over jetlag from most places, so I recommend you spend that time in Australia before moving on to the real holiday :P


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