The Riverbed Blog (testing)

A blog in search of a tagline

On the Road – Getting Around in New Cities

Posted by riverbedtest on June 24, 2008

Wow, looking at our first two weeks of posts, I must say we look like work-obsessed maniacs.  Well that’s only half true(*), so I’ll jump to the fore and kick off a series on something of perhaps general interest.  One thing I’ve noticed while traveling the world is that conversations with other travelers are often about…travel!  Mostly horror stories, but occasionally "do not miss" advice, "can you believe it?" stories or travel tips.  So, since a fair number of the Riverbed bloggers travel a lot, seems like a topic we can rally behind.  I’ll inaugurate with some travel tips for people who’re traveling more and more (not really for grizzled vets).

(*) Which half work-obsessed/maniacs isn’t true? I don’t know; likely both are true, but I’m trying to be polite here.

How do you get around a strange city?  I’ve a bunch of rules I
follow.  If you’re there a day, just take cabs — the hassles of
figuring out what’s where just aren’t worth it.  Now if you know you’ve
got to drive 75mi out of town to reach your customer, yeah of course
you want to rent a car or figure out trains, but for most business
trips, just cab it.  Get a receipt, and write down the amount ASAP (US
cabbies seem to feel writing on the receipts isn’t in their remit,
internationally I sometimes feel they’re trying to show off in just how
detailed they can make the receipt — I’ve had it take like 3 minutes of
scribbling when dude I really just need a date and amount).  If you do
get a car, and have multiple stops, bring or rent the satnav/GPS as
well, it just isn’t worth being late to meetings due to being
lost…sadly this is a rule from personal experience — I was 20 min
late to what I thought was a 3 person meeting with a new partner of
ours.  Turned out 25 people were waiting on me to puzzle out the UK’s
(lack of) signage.  However a co-worker of mine set the record, somehow
taking over 2 hours to do a 20 min drive in the UK between hotel and
meeting, perhaps due to wrong-side-of-the-road madness.

Now, what if you’re there longer?  The best way to master a lot of
cities is the cab/train combo.  First, learn how to take the metro (or
subway or U or L or…) to your hotel from the center of town.  Then,
when going to ‘obvious’ places, take the metro there, that’s maybe 10%
of the time, at first.  More often, you take a cab to the meeting,
then figure out how to get back on your own.  Not only does this save
money, but you learn the city much better.  On exit, the receptionist
can usually direct you, or conversely, warn you off of the plan.  As
you do more of this, the city will gain structure in your eyes over
time.  (Where I didn’t do this, Singapore, I found that even after over
10 days there (spread out over multiple visits), I still had no idea
where anything was, as all I did to get point to point was get in cabs
— so everything was a cabride away, mentally it’s sort of like jumping
through hyperspace….).

Flights of fancy aside, there are a few specific recommendations I
can recall.  In places where English is poor, it’s really useful to
have the name of the hotel in local script (Chinese characters, Arabic,
etc.), either printed from the hotel’s website (if they are clever), or
ask them to fax it to you (if they are not).  Another unbelievably
specific tip is that in Kuala Lumpur, if you arrive with local
currency, you can arrange your taxi before you leave security, and it
will save you 50% or so of the cost.  And in Hong Kong, if alone, take
the train, but in a group of 3-4, go ahead and take a cab, it’ll work
out about the same and get you to the hotel faster.

Anyone else have good local-travel related tips to share?

2 Responses to “On the Road – Getting Around in New Cities”

  1. Mead said

    I totally hear you. I spent time in both Taipei and Guangzhou this year and transportation styles require some getting used to and comfort on top of the languange barrier that you can run into sometimes.

  2. Mead said

    I totally hear you. I spent time in both Taipei and Guangzhou this year and transportation styles require some getting used to and comfort on top of the languange barrier that you can run into sometimes.

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