Saturday, May 5, 2007

Hints on Subways, Taxis, Rental Cars


v In the big cities it is almost mandatory to use these. We often don't bother with buses, but we have found subways to be incredibly handy. The key to understanding the subway directions is that they almost all use their last stop in each direction to indicate directions.
So the S1 might be marked with "Herrenberger" to show one direction and "Vaihingen" for the other. You have to figure out from the map if the stop you want is in the one direction or the other and then get on the train going in that direction. In the example below (Shanghai) the "Zhanglang High Technology Park" stop on the left is the last stop and all signs in various subway stations would use that stop or the last stop on the other end of the line to indicate what direction the subway was going.


v Not as expensive as you might imagine (in fact cheap in Argentina and China) , and can be a real convenience if you don't have the energy to figure out the local bus system. If you only need to go a few miles they are great. I've never had one deliberately lengthen a trip to increase the fare, but if you have a map handy you can double check that they are taking a reasonable route.

v In Europe tip about 10%, in Japan and China just pay the meter amount (unless it is just pocket change)

v My friend Roy's advice is that in Asia, “You are never lost--you are just in need of a taxi.” Your hotel will give you a location card you can show to the taxi driver (your key card also should work)--this is important! Don't assume that the taxi driver will be able to speak or read english. Have a map in the local language you can point at or have directions written out. The people in the hotels are usually very willing to help you with this.

Rental Cars

  • Most “premium” credit cards (some sort of metallic reference usually) will provide collision/theft insurance if you use their card to pay for the rental. This can save a lot of money, but be sure to check to see if your card carries this benefit. There also may limits on the length of rental that will be covered (Visa Signature limits it to a contract duration of 15 days or less). Your personal car insurance may offer coverage too, but it also will probably also have limits on the duration of the rental.
  • AARP and AAA (I think) memberships can save a lot of money on car rentals and sometimes provide additional insurance coverage. In Costa Rica this saved us at least a hundred dollars.
  • Don't assume you can drive your rental cars into other countries than where you rent it. In Europe there may be restrictions on going into Italy, Slovenia, etc. Check your contract first. This restriction varies sometimes on the type of car you rent. Driving a rental car from the USA into Mexico may not be allowed with your car or will require supplimental fees. In Europe there may be supplimental fees for entering a country that require you to purchase a sticker for your car. These requirements are usually fairly clearly stated in English near the border areas. Don't assume that just because there isn't a border station that you are home free.
  • I do not recommend trying to use a rental car in Japan, China, Taiwan or most 3rd world countries (e.g Turkey, any place in Africa). I don't think it is even legal in China. Check requirements on drivers licenses. We rented in Costa Rica and the Patigonia region of Argentina and in both of these cases it enabled us to do things that would have been impossible otherwise.

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