Don’t let foreign transportation keep you from independent travel

Photo illustration of the coast of Vernazza, Cinque Terre, Italy on Saturday, May 30. 

Katherine Sproles

The best thing about studying abroad is the free time to travel and explore.

In Italy the options are endless: Milan, Venice, Verona, Capri, Cinque Terre, Sorrento. Everything is just a train ride away and most of the time the train tickets are pretty cheap. This weekend I chose to visit Cinque Terre, a city popular for its bright, colorful buildings and gorgeous beaches, and Venice, the city famous for its canals and of course gondola rides.

Europe is amazing for independent travel because their transportation systems include trains, buses, and taxis all readily available at an affordable price.

The main concern using this kind of transportation is the void of knowledge many Americans have for train and bus systems. For Kentuckians like myself who are use to car transportation, the train proved to be a challenge.

To get to Cinque Terre, our small group needed to buy a group train ticket and then once in Cinque Terre purchase another ticket to a small train that would take us to our final destination. Not only were the tickets written in Italian, but they used the traditional Italian city names like “Firenze” instead of the English word “Florence.”

After hours of checking schedules and searching for someone who spoke proficient English, the locals­­­-not the train station employees-were our best resource.

That’s one of the magical things about Italy though: the locals are generally kind and love to help. It’s not hard to find an outgoing Italian that will gladly give you directions. You just need the courage to ask.

In Venice we took a group bus and then a water taxi to the city. Thankfully this day our group leaders scheduled transportation for all of us, but the gondola ride wasn’t as smooth as we had hoped.

Gondola rides are generally expensive so the more people you can split the ticket with the better. Before we hopped on, a sweet German couple and their son asked to join us.

The ride would have been perfect but our gondolier was less than gentlemanly and had no interest in dealing with slow tourists.

The views were amazing and our German companions were so friendly that they took pictures with us during the ride. When it was time to pay, though, the gondolier yelled at us to pay immediately allowing no time for us to split up the ticket. I handed him the 80 euro total and got out of the boat with my friends. At the time, it was easier to deal with the situation then and figure out the logistics later. My friends and the German couple were happy to pay me back when we left.

No matter how you have to travel abroad, making friends with locals and other tourists helps ease the transportation transition.