Here to There: 5 Transportation Tips I learned the hard way

I am a solo-budget-traveler who likes to book my long-haul flights to/from home and then leave room in my itinerary for unexpected adventures along the way.  While this gives me the flexibility and freedom I enjoy, it also means that I find myself spending precious time considering all my transporation options.  Here are the top 5 things I learned along the way.

1- Land vs Air = Time vs $$$

P1070686 Let’s say I want to get from Kuala Lumpur to Singapore.  First, I’d look up bus/train time tables and prices.  Next, I’d hit up Skyscanner and find flights for my chosen time frame.  If I could find a flight for under $70, it was almost always worth it since it saved me from sitting in a minivan all day.  In Vietnam, I bought a flight from HCMC to DaNang that was the same price as an overnight train ride.  Later, I rode the train from Hue to Hanoi and really enjoyed the trip.

2- If there is a border crossing: fly

P1060325 Crossing land borders adds 1-2 hours to your trip.  First, you get out and stand in line to get your visa/stamp. Get back in the bus, drive to customs and unload your gear.  Wait in line again.  The best bus companies give you VIP passes that fast-track you through the visa process. The worst make you switch buses at the border.

3- Wait…WHERE is the bus station?!?

wpid-Photo-20141129234323.jpg I noticed that the bus stations were located miles out of town and were only accessible by taxi.  Sometimes, this means you arrive to your ‘destination’ only to find the cab drivers are charging $15 for the 7 mile drive to your hotel. The nine hour bus ride was only $14. Haggling usually works, but these cabbies know you aren’t going to walk to town, so make some new friends and split the fare.

3-Pay for the ‘Luxury’ bus

wpid-Photo-20141103072411.jpg When the option for land travel is minivan, bus or luxury bus; spend the extra $5. I rode five hours in a minivan, with my hands braced against the back of the bench in front of me  It wasn’t bolted down and tipped back, precariously, every time we accelerated.  Luxury buses often give water or a meal as well. We also paid a bit more for our overnight train berths which slept four people instead of six people.

4- Avoid driving a motorcycle/scooter

P1050520 During my pre-trip research I read it over and over again; moto travel is dangerous! I promised myself that I wouldn’t travel by motorcycle while in Asia. Reinforcing my fears, I met numerous travelers with broken bones/terrible road rash and scary stories.  I was NOT going to be one of them! The last week of my trip, I rented a ‘scooter’ from our hostel to explore the low-key island of Koh Lanta. Luckily, nothing happened to me but my scooter wasn’t so lucky. Uneven pavement and a well-placed guardrail resulted in a hefty repair fine that my travel insurance wouldn’t cover.  Lesson learned.  Next time rent a pedal bike.


5- Don’t sweat the small stuff.

Eventually, I learned that ANY time I changed locations I should just plan on using a full day of travel time.  So, I tried to relax when in transit. I talked to other travelers, binge-listened to my favorite podcasts and watched the world go by outside my window. The journey is part of the adventure and makes the destination sweeter.

One more thing- Ride the SkyTrain from BKK to Bangkok for $3!

A cab can get stuck in traffic for HOURS and cost $27us!  Bypass that hassle and figure out if your destination is near a SkyTrain station.

Cruising I-80: MI to CO

So far the trip has been (thankfully) uneventful. In summary; Iowa has giant wind turbines and Nebraska has lots of farm equipment- especially irrigation systems. We had to make our own entertainment.

Here I will rank the most interesting 10 items:

10 – Tumbleweeds!

9 – Dad's new catchphrase is, “Sucks to be you!”

8- I saw an albino deer in the woods.

7- A guy in Applebee's was wearing a shirt that said, “Don't taze me, Bro!”

6- A mini van had a sticker-family on the back window; Mom, Dad, toddler, baby…. Goldfish!

5- While he drove, Dad put me to sleep with stories about growing corn. Yaawn.

4- Dad really loves the quiet, grooved highway.

3- We saw a semi spray dirt all over some poor construction guy holding a flag.

2- The speed limit in Nebraska is 75! Whee!

1- My personal ringtone on my dad's cell is called “Charming Introduction”. Awwww.

Since Mom & Dad have driven this way many times before, we keep passing towns that spark stories of trip of yore. Such as Atlantic, Iowa where the Red Van's alternator went out & caused flames to shoot out the tailpipe. Mom&Dad stayed at the El-Fordo Inn that night. By all accounts, it could have been a horror movie set. It was dingy and creepy and managed by an elderly couple on oxygen. Mom and Dad got outta there as soon as the alternator was replaced.


We stayed in Council Bluffs last night & this morning we watched the Blues Brothers as we got ready. Can you believe Dad hasn't see it!?? Next, I couldn't find my keys and when we thought about where I had them last, it was down @ the ice machine! oh no! luckily, they were under my pillow.

All that panicking made me hungry and we headed for our 'usual' McDonald's. We'd just been there in January. That time, a water main broke and we couldn't order anything requiring water! This time there was a huge construction project and there was an area walled off with plastic. They had taken out all the tables & replaced them with the folding kind, like we were at a church potluck.

As you can see, it's been a whirlwind tour!