Friday, October 17, 2014

The OBB: Austria's National Rail Network

In case you're wondering, OBB stands for Österreichische Bundesbahnen, which simply means Austrian National Railways in German. I booked an overnight coach class seat on the OBB Euro Night Train's Vienna-Zurich line for my journey from Salzburg, Austria to Zurich, Switzerland - the last stop of my German-speaking countries tour. It was also like a combined ride/hotel arrangement - the train was my hotel for the night.

Late October was relatively low season, so within my designated car I was able to find an entire 6-person enclosure occupied only by one other passenger. Then we both reclined a couple of facing seats and stretched ourselves out to a good night's sleep between two countries.

For more information on Austria-Switzerland rail travel, click here.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Salzburg: The Sound of Good Transit

(Inexpensive air travel provided by airBerlin)

No, I did not take the tour. But I sang the song!

Although my quick airBerlin flight from Berlin-Tegel arrived in Salzburg at night, I thought to myself, "when that aircraft door opens...the hills are alive!" And even in the dark of night, I still felt I had truly fulfilled a childhood musical dream.

Between the airport and city center
2 Airport <> Train Station / Mirabellgarten Area
8 Airport <> Old Town / Fortress Area

The trolleybus you need (and where you start your sightseeing) depends on where your hotel is, and mine was located literally steps from Mirabellgarten. As with the rest of the German-speaking world, the main train station is known as Hbf.

Public Transport
When you are on the go in the city, your best bet for avoiding stress and hunting for parking spaces is the public transport system. Orientation is easy, because nearly every route leads into the city center. You just board a trolley bus or bus heading into the city (Zentrum) and then explore the historic old town on foot. A ride up to explore the city's landmark, the Hohensalzburg Fortress, is the highlight of every city sightseeing excursion. Click here for more information.

On Foot
Salzburg is a walking city, no doubt. Even crossing a bridge over the Salzach between the old and new town areas is an experience. Don't forget to check out two interesting ones, the Sound of Music bike bridge and the bridge of locks.

The bridge of locks, one of many interesting crossings over the Salzach River.

Sound of Music
Speaking of the film, I was able to visit some of the locations in town:
1. Mirabellgarten
2. St. Peter's Church Cemetery
3. Bike bridge

The Getreidegasse is probably one of the loveliest shopping streets in the world: a wide range of stores inviting visitors to browse and shop are found behind the elaborately decorated façades, in the traditional passageways and inside the landmarked buildings. Click here for more information. Mozart's birthplace is in this area. This strip is definitely a good place to check out non-food items and souvenirs. But if you're looking for those cute Mozart chocolate bars, they are expensive here and most stores have a credit card minimum; your best bargains for those Mozart edible goodies are going to be away from here, at the main train station for example, where there is a full-service supermarket and the prices are lower with no credit card minimums. The locals shop here, of course!

So basically...trinkets at the tourist strip, food at the supermarket. That works for almost any city you visit!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Berlin: United, Efficient and Surprisingly Compact

(Complimentary travel OMA-DFW-FRA courtesy of American, inexpensive travel FRA-TXL courtesy of airBerlin)

The Unter den Linden is Berlin's main thoroughfare. Let it keep you from getting lost.

My first time in a German-speaking country and surprisingly, there isn't a language barrier as most residents speak English. Berlin is a fascinating and exciting city to visit, not to mention convenient.

Between Berlin-Tegel (TXL) and downtown
Bus TXL - serves Tegel Airport, the main rail station (Berlin Hauptbahnhof or Hbf), Unter den Linden / Brandenberg Gate and Alexanderplatz

Between Berlin-Schonefeld (SXF) and downtown
Train AirportExpress

In historic Berlin, all you need are a map and your two feet

Just Walk It
For exploring the absolute main sights, you have no need for any other bus or train lines. All the major ones are walking distance of each other! After getting off at the Main Hbf (itself a great place to get situated, grab some food and use the facilities), you can continue on walking to these nearby attractions, in clockwise geographic order from the station:

1. Reichstag (now known as Bundestag)
2. Tiergarten
3. Brandenberg Gate / Unter den Linden
4. Humboldt University / Deutsches Historisches Museume
4. Berliner Dom / Museum Island (including Pergamon)
6. View of Berlin TV Tower, the Fernsehturm
7. Shopping
8. Checkpoint Charlie
9. Topographie des Terrors and wall
10. Potsdamer Platz

A user-friendly map is available here.

Further Afield
To reach the outer limits of the city and suburban attractions such as Potsdam, consult the following S-Bahn and U-Bahn rail guides:

Official Maps and Guides are NOT Free
Yes, they are sold at 1,00e each at Information Centers all over the city. However, you can grab absolutely free unofficial maps and guides presented by sightseeing bus companies at any hotel or airport.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

St. Louis: Linking Yourself With the Metro

Arch-Laclede's Landing is the Metrolink Station for the world-famous monument

It's been over 10 years since I last visited this historic city, so with Delta Air Lines offering incredible last-minute fares over Labor Day weekend, it was a great opportunity to evaluate its awesome transit system while earning some miles.

Metro Transit is best known as the operator of the public transportation system for the bi-state St. Louis metropolitan region, with MetroLink (light rail), MetroBus and Metro Call-A-Ride. Light rail consists of two lines, the Red Line (Lambert Airport <> Shiloh-Scott) and the Blue Line (Shrewsbury <> Fairview Heights), overlapping between Forest Park and Fairview Heights.

Between Lambert-St. Louis International Airport and downtown
Red Line

Red and Blue serve all at and between Forest Park and Fairview Heights

Getting Around Forest Park
Forest Park is the city's main park complex, and the former grounds of the World's Fair. The brightly painted Bus Line 3 is also known as the Forest Park Trolley, and all Metro tickets are valid on this line. It's a seasonal service, providing frequent trips and quick connections from the Forest Park-DeBaliviere Station to various attractions in Forest Park, such as the Missouri History Museum, Forest Park Visitors Center, Grand Basin, Norman K Probstein Golf Course, St Louis Art Museum, St Louis Zoo, Boat House, World's Fair Pavilion, Pagoda Circle, the Muny, Jewel Box, Steinberg Skating Rink, Central Fields, Planetarium and St Louis Science Center.

Downtown and Vicinity
Behind the Arch, downtown St. Louis is served by the two train lines as well as many bus routes, and also easily covered on foot. Highlights include the Old Courthouse, Kiener Park, City Garden, Anheuser-Busch Brewery Tours, Busch Stadium, Ballpark Village, Union Station and many others.

A world-famous monument viewed from an 1800's bridge spanning America's greatest river

Tips for Iconic Arch Photos!
  • Gateway Arch and skyline - take any rail line to East Riverfront Station and walk toward the Casino Queen parking lot.
  • Old Courthouse with the Arch behind it - go to Kiener Plaza, in the area around the Running Man sculpture and fountain
  • Arch within an arch - platform of the Arch-Laclede's Landing Station, where you can see the Gateway Arch peeking from within one of the arches of Eads Bridge
St. Louis Metro Transit's "next" bus and train schedules a clickable on your phone's Google Maps app. Just activate the transit layer, zoom in to your location and click on the bus or train station icon.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Earn up to 7,500 American Airlines miles with Avis


As the weather warms up – you can, too. Through July 15th, take a little more time for yourself with savings of up to 35% and earn up to 7,500 AAdvantage® bonus miles. There's no better time than now to unwind by renting with Avis – the preferred car rental partner of American.

Number of Rental DaysMiles Earned
7 or more7,500

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Double Qantas Points offer with US Airways and TAM

Qantas excited to announce two new airline partners have joined the oneworld® alliance and expanded their global network. With the addition of US Airways and TAM Linhas Aéreas, you'll be able to fly throughout both North and South America and beyond, while earning Qantas Points and Status credits.

USA is calling! US Airways joined oneworld® as an affiliate of American Airlines and a Qantas Frequent Flyer partner on 31 Mar 2014. To celebrate, they're offering you double Qantas Points on eligible US Airways flights when you register and travel between 31 Mar and 30 Jun 2014. One of South America's best airlines, TAM Linhas Aéreas joined oneworld® and the Qantas Frequent Flyer program on 31 March 2014. They're excited to offer double Qantas Points4 on eligible TAM flights when you register between 31 Mar and 31 May for travel from 1 May until 31 May 2014.

Register now

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Dallas: Easy Breezy in a Complex Metroplex

Like Denver, I have connected through the colossal Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport (DFW) many times. In fact, it was the very first Central Time Zone city I had ever been to, so it will always have that special place in my travel memories. I finally got a rare opportunity to experience this big city on the outside while on a long layover en route to Omaha.

The DART Shuttle (No. 500) stop outside Concourse A

Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) gets you around Dallas and 12 surrounding cities with modern public transit services and customer facilities tailored to make your trip fast, comfortable and economical. The  extensive network of DART Rail, Trinity Railway Express (TRE) and bus services moves more than 220,000 passengers per day across a 700-square-mile service area.

Between DFW and the city:
DART via Belt Line Station [INFO]
Trinity Railway Express via Centreport/DFW Station [INFO]

Between Love Field and the city:
DART via Inwood/Love Field Station [INFO]

DART Buses
DART operates local and express bus routes serving Addison, Carrollton, Cockrell Hill, Dallas, Farmers Branch, Garland, Glenn Heights, Highland Park, Irving, Richardson, Rowlett, Plano and University Park. [INFO]
The combined DART and TRE map. Soon, Orange Line will be extended to DFW.

DART Rail and Trinity Railway Express
The DART Rail System provides fast, convenient service to work, shopping and entertainment destinations in Dallas, Carrollton, Farmers Branch, Garland, Irving, Plano and Richardson. Plus, the TRE commuter line links DART customers to DFW International Airport and downtown Fort Worth.
Cowboy country!

Useful Tip
When traveling in downtown Dallas, visit the DART Store at Akard Station for printed schedules or a system map. Schedules are also available at many libraries and other government centers in the DART Service Area.