Tag Archives: tram

Busabout

Well I’ve been rather busy lately.

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I decided a while ago to apply for a few positions as a guide as I wasn’t overly satisfied with my work at Flight Centre. I wanted to get back to the source of the travel, to be truly involved in making peoples holidays, talking to the people having fun, not just booking their flights. Of all of the positions I applied for, it was Busabout that I wanted most (although a position in Africa was pretty tempting as well). The Hop-on Hop-off style is how I would want to travel Europe, with a guide to help out, but no restrictions time wise. With so many cities visited in so many countries, it allows you see the best of Europe, and gives you the tools to see the rest of it as well. Plus the coach gives people a chance to meet new friends, much more sociable than the trains.

I got through the interview process with a hastily written presentation on Barcelona FC, and wowed them with my one on one, which meant I got invited to join the 7 week training trip – visiting every city on their loops, through 14 countries in Europe. So I handed in my notice, packed up all my things and hit the road again.

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It was a gruelling 7 weeks of coaches almost every day, rushing around cities to find out as much as we could, bike tours, pub crawls, cooking classes, boat trips and much much more. There were some late nights, some stressful situations but I felt it was all manageable, they tested me, but I never felt like I would fail. Once I got into a routine of having everything prepared a day before, I could hop up and give a talk on cities and countries I’d never even been to. It was a lot of fun in fact, meeting so many like minded people, learning huge amounts about European history and every city on our network. Now I’m sure all my friends will complain about the constant barrage of facts.

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Then as the end was in sight, they told me I’d be flying off to Greece for an extra 10 days of training on the Greek Island Hopper adventure product. While I was craving some rest, I jumped at the chance to educate myself in Greek gods, mythology, and how to avoid sun burn when it’s 40+ everyday. As we experienced the product I learnt how much fun it would be, parties every other night and some beautiful islands to explore.

I am now happy to say that I am employed by Busabout as a European Guide, and have started with my first sector just two days ago – Munich to Paris with just 10 passengers. Tomorrow I will be hitting the road with many more, heading to Amsterdam. Time to brush up on my Dutch history.

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I have to thank all of the trainers who helped me prepare for this, pushing me to my limits, making sure I’m ready for silly questions, difficult questions, and everything else they can throw at me. Here’s to a wonderful summer in Europe.

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Rome Pt.1

So I had another couple of days available, so decided a quick jaunt over to Rome was in order.

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I’ve never been to Italy before, but I’d heard good things about it, mostly about the food. But we all know about the history, at least some of it. The Ancient Romans, the Vatican and so much more, it’s really got a lot of the ‘big ones’ all in one city.

IMG_20151122_115213I took an evening flight over, and as always I was hopeless at finding my hostel on the public transport system. It’s pretty easy to get into town, and worth paying the extra for the direct train to Termini, the others don’t stop in the city centre, so you have to jump onto the metro. That said, buying a metro ticket for the length of your stay is a really easy way to save a lot of walking, valid on metro, trams and buses it means you can hop about all over the city. You can certainly see it all walking, but unless you’re an active walker, it’s easy to get sore feet from the miles you’ll clock up. I arrived at my hostel to find the friendly staff happy to help, and a room full of sleeping people, so I joined them.

The hostel was not IMG_20151122_120137very busy, and I didn’t meet anyone in the morning to explore with, so I set out alone, without any game plan to find somewhere for some food, and see what I could see. I found myself on Via Dei Fori Imperiali the pedestrian road that connects the Colosseum to Piazza Venezia past the Roman Forum. I close to take a right, and explored the area along with the ‘typewriter’ the magnificent Altare della Patria, and the Basilica di Santa Maria in Ara Coeli. I didn’t really know what I was looking at, but I was very impressed by the architecture of the buildings, both old and new, with some stunning designs and iconic views of the city, and back over the Forum. Inside the Basilica you start to understand why the Italian design has done so well, with incredibly delicate and intricate design and craftsmanship of all kinds to decorate the church. Certainly a good starting point, combining the ancient and the religious, two of the strongest influences over Rome, and certainly on the tourist industry.

IMG_20151122_143646From here I started heading toward the infamous Spanish Steps, which were unfortunately closed for renovations, but still quite a marvel to see. The Steps are well known as a meeting place, and at night quite an active spot for some socialising with a drink or two. It’s certainly known by the budget travellers as they can avoid bar prices and pick up some cheeky beers on the road. Again, the architecture of the area is quite remarkable, this time for the classical style, and the way Rome has blended so nicely from ancient to modern. From Spagna, down to the Piazza del Popolo is a short walk through some of the more commercial streets, and although busy it’s easy enough to enjoy the city. I can only imagine the hoards that gather on these streets during the summer months though, and I’m very glad I went at one of the quieter times of year. The Piazza is know for the huge obelisk in the centre and the twin buildings that make up one of the early gates to the city. You can walk up the hill from here to look over the city, and spot several of the famous landmarks dotted along the skyline. following the ridge of the hill leads back to the top of the Spanish steps again, from where there’s plenty to choose from.

IMG_20151122_151036I decided to save the Trevi Fountain for later in the day, and aimed at getting across to Piazza Navona, via a few of the churches and sights along the way. Through my rather improvised route I also stumbled upon the Pantheon, a spectacular temple again showing how ancient and modern worlds sit nicely within Rome. While it feels a little cramped in around the edges, theres enough space to appreciate the building, and getting inside was no bother (although I can only imagine the queues in summer). Inside it’s even more impressive with the high roof stretching up high above, it’s hard to understand how such a place could have been built so long ago.

IMG_20151122_152611Piazza Navona is a hive of tourist restaurants and souvenir shops, but the fountain in the centre makes it worth braving the square. Again Rome impresses with it’s design, and these walks just show sight after sight, with so much to see, and so many fantastic historic buildings along every street it’s hard to appreciate them all. If just one of these were in the centre of a modern city it would be a sight, but when compared to the massive tourist pulls in Rome they pale by comparison, which is something that could only happen in a city as impressive as this. The next stop was Largo Di Torre Argentina, a relatively insignificant section of Roman ruins, but home to a colony of cats who prowl the grounds seeking food and attention. On the way back to the hostel, to rest the worn feet and for a much needed nap I passed the horrendous crowd that was gathered around the Trevi Fountain. Truly a spectacle worth visiting, but not when you can’t relax and enjoy it. I made a note to come back later.

IMG_20151123_011810That evening I ventured to another hostel nearby to find some fellows, and did so. After a few drinks in some odd bars as we dodged the rain, we settled down with some takeaways outside the Colosseum. My first close look at the magnificent building was suitably impressive, and bigger than people had led me to believe, perhaps because they had been disappointed themselves. After a pleasant evening of easy conversation I headed home, back along Via di Forti Imperiali and back to the Trevi Fountain, which was much quieter and more peaceful. I spent some time relaxing and enjoying the incredible fountain built into the side of a building. I’m not sure what they do to make the water so gloriously blue, but it works. Strolling through the city gave me no worries, and despite the reputation for pickpockets I was happy not to have any trouble.

Continued here

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The Best (and Worst) Ways to get around the world

There’s a lot of different methods of public transport in the world, each one has it’s benefits and problems, so here’s a little of my favourite. If you’re got any transport horror stories, or favourites that I missed, let me know – if I get a lot, I’ll turn them into another post.

  • Trains

One of my favourites, they’re simple, they’re hard to get wrong, and generally pretty quick. If you’re lucky, you’ll be on a nice quiet coach with a few seats to yourself able to lie down and get some shut eye. The Sydney area double-decker trains are cool, although uncomfortable, and most British ones are passable. The Overnighters in Thailand are a little odd though, not uncomfortable until you need to go to the bathroom.

  • Buses and Coaches

I don’t think these are anyones favourite, but as far as cheap transport goes, these are the bomb. From the Greyhound and Premier buses that cart loads of backpackers from stop to stop, with the occasional riot/party on board, and some of the worst nights sleep imaginable to the Thai VIP buses with complementary food and water, big comfy chairs and plenty of stops. Then there’s the coaches in other parts of SE Asia, where it’s goodbye to any idea of luxury, and you’re lucky if you’re not sat on a stool in the aisle. Dangerous overcrowding, awfully maintained seats, sitting with your bags, it’s not good.

  • Mini-buses

Proabably the worst form of transport I’ve ever experienced, and rarely are they any good (outside of a western country that is). I’ve shared mini-buses with chickens, pigs, motorbikes, twice the amount of people the bus was designed for and so much more. If you’re lucky, you’ll get a real seat, not a wooden one, and if you’re really lucky, you’ll get it all to yourself. Sharing with your bag is not unusual, but makes it tricky to go to the bathroom. Often there’s no choice but if you can, avoid these death-traps!

  • Tuk-Tuks

They change depending on the country, but the typical Bangkok tuk-tuk is what most people think of. Named after the noise they make, these are little trikes that usually fit no more than three passengers, are cheap, and a great way to get around in the citys. Often confused with Song Thaws, which are more like pick-up trucks (or backies/utes in Africa/Australia) Tuk-Tuks are more common, and much smaller. Cambodian tuk-tuks tend to be a motorbike, with a carriage attached, while in Loas you’re looking for miniature minibuses. Always check what your journey should cost before you go, so you know you’re getting a good deal, but these should always be good value.

  • Airplanes

The best way to go to a long way, and sometimes the only way into some countries, but if you can avoid the short haul flights, please do. They really aren’t even close to being sustainable, even with the £1 carbon offset donation. I love them, because they take you a long way fast, but I hate waiting in airports. I think my favourite thing about them is watching all the movies during the flight, and not having to worry about food for a good few hours.

  • Metro/Tube Systems

Love them, I don’t care how confusing they are, how many people are squished in, there’s nothing better than zipping around a city via a network or tunnels or above the streets on tracks. I am have done three laps of Kuala Lumpur city centre before I got where I needed, but hell, it was fun. Singapore has a nice system, as does Dubai, just be aware that you may need to push to get off, they’re not as polite as the British.

  • Trams

Better than the metro/tube lines because you can see where you are easily so can hop on and off exactly where you need, or at least, where you think you need. But best of all of course, you rarely need to pay for these, especially as a foreigner. For 6 months in Melbourne I got away with playing dumb on the rare occasions I got caught. The same in Dublin, where the moment they heard a non-irish accent they just kicked you off to buy a ticket.

There’s a few I missed, local buses tend to be useful, but never popular, boats, which are really just very damp coaches, and I’m sure there’s some odd ones out there I’ve missed totally.

Have fun, and as my Dad always told me, ‘Mind the Trams’

Benjamin Duff

@versestravel