Weekly Roundup No. 6: Travel Tips

The post on Berlin & Potsdam took so long to write, I almost forgot about the weekly roundup! And besides, Berlin was pretty much all I did this week. Then I wrote a really long post about it when I got back. Went to yoga. Slept. Ate. Etc.

But I suppose one more thing to note is how wonderfully accessible Europe is from London. Paris took about two hours to get to on the Eurostar; Berlin, an hour and a half on Easyjet.

I’m sure there are numerous websites where you can get tips on flying Easyjet, Ryanair and other discount airlines, but this was my first time flying Easyjet and for the most part things went off without a hitch. The one annoying obstacle was that C’s suitcase didn’t fit in the carry-on sizer, and she had to pay £40 for the gate check-in. The gate agent told her that it would have cost £11 online or £20 at the ticketing counter; basically, the price goes up the closer you get to the plane. It was the more annoying because her suitcase was clearly small enough, and the wheels were the only catch. But no dice. Easyjet’s gotta make its money somehow.

The other moneymaking ploy they whip out is selling random tchotchkes on the flight, really agressively. iPod chargers, makeup for your wife, knickknacks for your children! Really, that counts as abuse of the sound system while we’re all stuck in our seats! But oh well. For an £80 trip to Berlin and back? I’ll endure it. Could get it even cheaper if I’d booked earlier.

Getting around Berlin was also pretty seamless: the U-bahn and rail systems are affordable and accessible. Getting from Berlin Schonefeld to central Berlin took half an hour and only cost 3 euros for passage through all three zones. (The more zones you pass through, the more the ticket costs.) Getting to Potsdam took about as long, and cost as much. Even in Potsdam, the bus and tram systems were intuitively easy to use.

And what’s more, the metro works on an honor system, so you’re expected to buy your tickets and validate them, but you don’t have to go through a turnstile to get on the train. Occasionally, ticket inspectors come by, and when they do, you’d better have a validated ticket.

Better safe than sorry, right?

Well… the first few days, C and I tried to be good citizens, buying and validating tickets. But by the end, we got lazy. Hey, sightseeing is expensive. So why not save a few euros? Besides, we didn’t see that many people validating their tickets, either. And we didn’t once come across a ticket inspector.

The last day. We were running late heading to the airport, so we hopped on the train without having time to get tickets. I rummaged through my pockets; wouldn’t want something to happen to us just as we’re leaving, knock on wood! I miraculously fished out two unvalidated tickets for zones A, B, and C–just as we saw a ticket inspector rounding the corner. With a knowing look, she told us, next time, to validate before we get on the train.

We meekly said we would. Whew!

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