My Trio of Travel Secrets

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Joel of Freedonia Post recently tagged me in Tripbase’s My 3 Best Kept Travel Secrets chain which has been making its rounds on the #rtwsoon and #rtwnow tweets. 

The chain started out with location tips but now includes anything you should know, including Joel’s cautionary 3 Travel Secrets They They Do Not Want You to Know.

In addition to Joel’s post I’ve read so many great tips that it was a bit challenging to find three things that experienced travelers may not know but I think I found three that may be news for some of you:

1) Montreal Drum Circle at Mount Royal

The past three years I’ve partied at the Montreal Jazz Festival but last year was the first time I experienced the Drum Circle which is run by Tam Tams Montreal.

Imagine a modern day hippie festival occurring every Sunday from Spring through Fall.

Hundreds congregate on the grass with blankets, food and plastic cups filled with arbitrary alcohol to listen to the bongos and djembes that surround the angel statue, also known as the Sir George-Étienne Cartier monument.

If you want to lounge around for the afternoon, buy some cheap reggae inspired trinkets and dance to the rhythm you should not miss this event.

2) Take the Train from Bangkok to Cambodia with the locals

Traveling from Bangkok to Siem Reap is a long road of avoiding scams.

After hearing all the horror stories my traveling companion Geof and I decided to take the train to the Aranyaprathet, Thailand/Poipet, Cambodia border.

At first it doesn’t appear appealing as it’s a 6am start on a third-class, 5 hour long train. But you cannot beat the price of 48 Baht.

This is my second travel secret as it was one of the most memorable experiences of the trip. We were the only non-local, English-speaking travelers.

But it didn’t stop others from sitting with us, offering us food, insisting that we hold their babies.

They wanted to look at our passports and were excited that we were Canadian.

Somehow we communicated without a common language.

This is tip 2B if you choose this path: it may be wise to contact Two Dragons Guesthouse which is run by an American/Thai couple.

It’s much pricier than the other hostels.

But they give very specific instructions on how to cross the border without getting scammed. And will even arrange a taxi from the Cambodian border to Siem Reap.

It’s a good deal.

This was one of the more stressful border crossings and we were so happy everything was arranged in advance.

Unfortunately the other travellers crossing were not as lucky as paid double the visa price and spent the remainder of their patience negotiating a fair taxi price.

3) Termini Station – find the yellow validation machine

My mother says I could fall into a bucket of poo and come out smelling like roses. What she means is that I’m incredibly lucky.

Somehow when I travel alone people want to take care of me.

I arrived solo in Rome and went to Termini station to buy a one-way second class to Florence for $30.  

While waiting for the train a middle-aged woman approached me frantically speaking Italian.

I had no idea what she said but she kept pointing to her ticket so I showed her mine.

There was a look of shock on the woman’s face. And with flailing arm motions she summoned me to come with her. I wasn’t sure what was happening, thought she trying to scam me and followed her with hesitation.

That was until we found the yellow validation machine that she was looking for. And what I needed to find as well.

For some reason, no one tells you that you have to get your ticket stamped before boarding the train. Otherwise the ticket useless.

That crazy Italian woman just saved me a hefty penalty.

I boarded the the train and met a lovely American couple on their honeymoon. Then I told them about how I didn’t know about this validation machine.

Apparently they didn’t either.

Security came through to look at our passports and tickets and the Americans were slapped with a $75 fine.

I’ve heard that this happens all the time to travelers, yet no one passes along this tip.

Check out more tips for taking an Italian train.

Join the Conversation

  1. That train ride sounds like an amazing experience.

  2. brian | No Debt World Travel says:

    I totally forgot about the ticket validation in Italy. The counter clerk actually told me about it so I didn’t get hit with the fine.
    On the Paris subway you have to keep your ticket, which is a little ridiculous piece of paper. Teams go out and check people coming off the train to make sure you had the ticket to be on the train in the first place.

    The Cambodian/Thai border crossing is a mess. I knew I was going to get scammed when I took the van from my hostel in Bangkok because I didn’t know any other way to cross.

  3. can’t believe that the tamtam is still going on – I went to them something like 15+ years ago and even took adrian there a few years later (before we were married.)

  4. These are the good travel tips. Montreal Jazz Festival is good festival around 2 million people reach to see to this festival.

  5. Oh yes,the Italians and their validation machines.You need to do that even with the ticket for the vaporetto in Venice…or else.

  6. Validations machines are common in many European countries, and it makes sense since transport is increasingly automated. Many countries could do a much better job of informing travellers of this, though.

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      I know, would it be so tough to put a sign up in a few different languages that explains this. I hate to complain but Rome Terminal is a major tourist destination. I just thank my stars that the woman thought I was also Italian.

  7. I have been traveling to Rome regularly for years. A sign in English or on the yellow validation machine to stamp your ticket? Hah ! It just wouldn’t be Italy if there was that much order.
    This summer the Italians were slapping hefty fines on tourists purchasing fake designer bags on the beach. But do nothing about the Sengelese vendors pushing the Chinese knock offs. Gli italiani sono pazzi… alcune volte

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      So I just visited Munich and as soon as I purchased my ticket the woman tells me to stamp it and I was so grateful. In general I don’t expect foreign countries to have much English – except major tourist destinations like the airport or one of the biggest rail hubs in Europe!

      A nice neat little sign in Italian/French/German/Spanish/English would help. But I am starting to think they just like the money…

  8. DTravelsRound says:

    These are great tips!!

  9. The Travel Chica says:

    These are some pretty obscure tips that travelers will be very happy to have in these destinations. Perhaps I need to do a little googling for other Trio of Travel Secrets posts for my upcoming destinations.

  10. Raymond @ Man On The Lam says:

    I wish I had known about that train to Cambodia. I went through the border crossing at Had Lek/Koh Krong, and you don’t get much bargaining power when you arrive 10 minutes before the border closes. Lesson learned. 🙂

  11. Bryan @ RedMangrove Galapagos says:

    Great tips. Its those little things that make the difference. I’ve never heard of validation machines for tickets – but then again, I don’t get out much. Here in Ecuador, you usually don’t pay for the bus route until you are halfway into it – ticket are seldom used except on the executive buses.

    Thanks!

  12. We visited Bangkok for the first time last spring. Would definitely like to return and get more up and close with the locals. The train ride sounds inviting, thanks for sharing!

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