The Great Wander - Join us on our journey around the world! An International couple (US & NZ) sharing our travels around world with you. We have been travelling around the world together for the past 7 years and writing about the good, the bad, and the tasty while checking off our ever evolving bucket list.
If you want to visit New Zealand, this post is for you. Whether you have a week or several months, here are some highlights you should include in your travels. Not all of them may be possible for you but we think they are the essence of New Zealand. Each of them have something unique to offer.
If you arrive in to New Zealand via Auckland, as most do, then you cant miss a chance to see Cape Reinga. This is the very northern most point of New Zealand and is famous for its lighthouse. It is about a 6 hour drive from Auckland so probably a place you work in to your travel plans for the Northland region. Later in this post we talk about Paihia which lies about half way between Auckland and Cape Reinga – a perfect base to allow easier access.
The wild open country makes for some fantastic views on the drive up and then on the walk out to the lighthouse. Best done on a clear day as there is no shelter on this walk.
A peculiar feature of this area is the meeting of two oceans. The Tasman Sea (west of New Zealand) and the Pacific Ocean (to the east) come together. A strange effect can be see with the two different colored bodies of water not mixing. One of only a few places in the world you can see this effect.
If you have time on the day you visit then we can highly recommend a drive to Spirits Bay. This is New Zealand’s northern most beach and about a 15 minutes drive from the Cape Reinga lighthouse area. It is a lovely place to have a picnic, take a walk along the beach or swim in the refreshing aqua colored water.
Queenstown, Arrowtown and Wanaka
For many when they visit New Zealand, their trip is not complete without coming to this area. Queenstown is one of the countries capitals for outdoor adventure. The stunning natural beauty was captured in the Lord of the Rings and you can take a tour to see the shooting locations. During winter it is one of the premier locations in New Zealand for skiing and snowboarding with many skifields close by. We have been lucky to be able to experience much it has to offer and can recommend these activities.
A thrilling ride in jetboats along a river through a very narrow canyon. The Shotover Jet drivers make this ride super exciting. Not for the faint hearted!
For those who have never ridden a horse before we can totally recommend Ben Lomond Horse Trekking. You are taken on a 60 minute ride through some of the breathtaking backcountry near Queenstown. They are only a 30 minute drive from the town centre. Experienced riders can also be catered for with longer rides.
Gondola, luge and ziplining
No trip to Queenstown is complete without a ride up the mountain with Skyline Queenstown. Not only do you get some of the most amazing views of the town lake and mountains, there is plenty more to do. They have a fantastic luge and zipline setup.
Other activities that are in the area but not actually in Queentown itself but accessible by car are:
Goldpanning in Arrowtown – about a 20 minute drive from Queenstown. This area was once a booming gold town in the 1800’s. Much of the original architecture has been preserved so it is like walking back in time.
Puzzling World in Wanaka – about a 90 minute drive from Queenstown. A quirky place for family fun and if you are doing this as a day trip from Queenstown then you can go on from here to visit the town of Wanaka. See their acclaimed lake and if you have enough time visit an unusual place to catch a movie – Cinema Paradiso – complete with old couches, full service and an intermission.
Nelson and Motueka
Another of our favourite areas of the country and one we think you should make time for when you visit New Zealand. Nelson is the largest town at the top of the South Island and has the most sunshine hours of the country.
For those with a love of the outdoors, this part of New Zealand is one of exquisite beauty. It is about a 60 minute drive from Nelson. The first beach you come across in Abel Tasman park is Kaiteriteri Beach. A lovely spot for a picnic or to act as the start of a boar tour of the Abel Tasman National Park. We went on scenic tour with Wilsons Abel Tasman and can thoroughly recommend them.
This is a very small town about half way between Nelson and Abel Tasman with a lot to offer for such a small place. They have several breweries, vineyards, an animal farm perfect for kids and a couple of fantastic restaurants right on the water.
For those a little more adventurous this is the place for you! They have the worlds longest flying fox, four-wheel drive motorbikes and horse riding. We did the first two of these and had such a great day out here. It is only about a 20 min drive from downtown Nelson.
Last but not least on our must visit items for this area is the town of Nelson itself. The region is know for wine and tobacco but also for its beer. You can sample this at some of the great restaurants that line the beachfront. We can highly recommend one of these – The Boat Shed Cafe. After you have eaten you can take a leisurely stroll along Tahunanui Beach. Or if you really want to experience the beer culture of the town then a tour with McCashins Brewery is a perfect day out.
At the lowest part of the South Island, this area has completely captured our hearts and is a place we return to often. Wild and rugged, it is home to some of the most amazing animals – penguins, dolphins, sea lions and seals.
Taking a particular piece of our heart is the Lazy Dolphin Lodge in Curio Bay. This is one of the southern most parts of the country and very isolated. A very simple backpacker type accommodation, it has the most stunning views of the ocean right from its lounge. We were greeted to dolphins swimming in the waves the first time we arrived. Only a few minutes car ride away is a petrified forest on the shore. It is here, if you are lucky, you can see the rare yellow eyed penguin.
Also within a 30 minute drive of the Lazy Dolphin Lodge is New Zealand’s southern most beach – Slope Point. It is here that gain, if you are lucky, you can see magnificent sea lions lazing on the beach. Be careful not to approach these guys though as they can be a little aggressive.
Another fantastic location, this one is located about 1 hour north of Curio Bay at the top of the Catlins area. A short but fairly intense walk will get you to the lighthouse and the viewing areas of the point. Some truly amazing colored water and then a bonus of many seals playing in the water and on the rocks.
In the Bay of Islands about 3.5 hours from Auckland lies the town of Paihia. A perfect place to stay to use as a base to explore the many locations and activities this area boasts.
Waitangi Treaty Grounds
The English came to New Zealand in the early 1800’s and started war with the natives, the Maori. A treaty was signed between both sides at Waitangi in 1840. You can visit the grounds where this historic event in New Zealand’s history took place. There is a traditional Mario meeting house, a colonial English cottage and some lovely gardens to explore.
The Bay of Islands where Paihia is situated boasts some wonderful waterfalls. Two we suggest are:
Haruru Fall – About a 10 minute drive from Paihia township these falls easy to access with parking right near by.
Rainbow Falls – These are in KeriKeri which is a 30 minute drive north of Paihia. There is also ample parking near these falls and a slightly longer walk.
If you are taking the time to get to KeriKeri for Rainbow Falls there are several other great places to visit.
Firstly the Old Packhouse Farmers Market which runs every Saturday and Sunday morning until about 1pm. They have with approximately 100 stalls selling local produce, meats, seafood, deli lines, wines, craft beer, baked goods, natural skincare, plants, artisan products, arts & crafts. There is a variety of delicious street food vendors, an in-house bakery and two cafes.
Secondly something we found surprisingly good – The Parrot Place bird park. Lots of displays of both native birds and then exotic parrots. You are able to handle some of these and get in cages with many of them.
This quaint French settled town is about 1.5 hours drive from Christchurch. A must see if you are venturing on to the rugged Banks Peninsula.
Signs of its French past are evident with street names, cafes and other stores dedicated to celebrating French culture. Nowadays it is much more of a tourist destination. Many locals from Christchurch own vacation homes in the town too.
We would suggest taking a dolphin watching tour to really appreciate the natural beauty of this area. We went with Akaroa Dolphins. Pick a calm water day though if you are a prone to sea sickness as it can get a little wild on the water.
Most people come to Dubai for the glamour and luxury. From the tall buildings and super malls to some of the most expensive cars in the world. Dubai, although in the desert, is not as often explored for its’ natural surroundings. But it should be.
Our Desert Safari Experience
Desert safari hardly encompasses the experience we had during our time in the desert. We were picked up in a large Land Rover 4×4 which we shared with five other passengers (made for a bit of closeness on the ride). Once we drove about 50 minutes or so outside of the main city, we arrived at a small gas station/store in the middle of seemingly nowhere. From here, our driver waits so we can meet up with other drivers from other tours. He said safety in numbers was always best because you never know what could happen. They all like to look out for one another.
About 10 other 4×4’s showed up within the span of a few minutes. Our driver let some of the air out of the tires of the truck, and we were off-roading!
First up on the desert safari was a bit of dune bashing. This was a ton of fun and completely safe. Our driver made sure that we had as much fun as was ethically safe for him to do. Never once did we feel we might tip over or crash. He did a great job.
After about a half hour or so of dune bashing, we make our way out to camp. Camp was a very large collection of tents surrounding tables and a stage. We arrived as the sun set which meant it wouldn’t be too long before we broke fast for the day.
Prior to dinner though, we had the opportunity to explore all that the camp had to offer. There were camels, four wheelers, people doing henna, sand artists, sheesha, and more! We hardly had enough time to properly explore all that there was but tried to make the most of our time.
Getting Fed and Entertained
Dinner was a feast fit for a king! With great chicken, lamb, and vegetarian options, there was something yummy for everyone. While we ate, we were treated to a live dancing performance that included the dancers twirling and even doing a costume change during the set (which I thought was fairly impressive!)
The festivities continued for a bit, even after dinner was through. We smoked sheesha, talked with other travellers, did some camel riding, and I even got out on the four wheeler for a bit of dune bashing of my own!
We left feeling full, happy, and tired after a long day. This was definitely one of the biggest highlights of our trip around the world and something everyone should try when they fly into Dubai!
There are many travel experiences that stick out in my mind but none hit home like the day I got henna in Mumbai. It was the middle of our 6-week, 17 country trip and it was a very hot day (over 37C!). We booked a tour last minute to visit the Dharavi Slums.
Dharavi Slums Tour
Our tour guide and driver were very knowledgeable and took us to many places along the way- lunch, the largest outdoor laundry, a fresh food marketplace, and other memorable places throughout the city. As I normally do, I inquired about the tour guide’s family (as he was the only one of the two who spoke English). He explained that he lived in the Slums across town and that he was working to get enough money to get married.
At this point, we start talking customs and cultures when I mentioned that something I had always wanted to do was to get traditional henna and hoped I would find someone to do it while I was still in town. My tour guide then smiled and said “No worries, I will take you home! My sister will do it!”. Several times I said I couldn’t ask him to do that but he insisted he show me where he lives and had me meet his family.
Following our Dharavi Slum tour, our driver took us to the other side of town to another Slum near Bandra. We walked through very narrow streets and alleyways, snaking around corners, barely seeing the sky in most places. It didn’t take long until we reached our tour guide’s home.
A very modest home by any means, the entire home occupied the space that most would consider a very small kitchen. We were encouraged to sit on the floor as this was the home’s bedroom, kitchen, lounge, and dining area. His family took great pride in their home and in having guests. Although their English wasn’t the best, the connection was there.
The time and intricacy of the design she drew on me was incredible and she did it with such ease. We chatted about other uses of henna and she mentioned that it was a natural way for women in India to dye their hair and that many older women who cannot afford to get their hair professionally colored will make the henna paste to color their roots-giving many older Indian women the distinct red coloring in their hair that you may see.
It took a little over 30 minutes for my henna to be complete and for me to fall in love with the local people. I offered to give her money for her time and materials but she kept refusing and said she would take payment in the form of pictures. So we took many pictures on my phone and on hers and her brothers.
I asked if she did henna often for guests of her brother’s tours and she replied, “No, he must have really liked you”. As he dropped me off back at my hotel following the tour, I couldn’t help but give our tour guide the biggest hug I could and thank him over and over for making my time in Mumbai so memorable.
Here, just like all over the world people who have nothing or very little to give, give freely and openly. This was truly a humbling experience and one I will not soon forget. The next time you find yourself complaining over something small, remember those who have less but still make more of an impact on those around them than most. If this doesn’t humble you, I’m not sure anything will.
To my Artist:
**To the beautiful woman in my photos who helped me with my henna, if you are reading this- THANK YOU! Your kindness and generosity is what has inspired this article. Keep doing art and keep being so sweet and know that you are a good person. Thank you again for being the most memorable part of my Mumbai experience <3 Please reach out so we can stay in contact!
What makes Chiang Mai so friendly? Is it the locals? It is the travellers? It is both!
The Friendly Locals
Walking down the streets, it’s hard not to have a smile on your face. Thailand is known as The Land of Smiles for a reason! Smile at most locals and you are sure to get a smile, a nod, or a wave back. Need help finding a location? Ask a local! There are thousands of Tourist Information booths located around the city. All ran by friendly locals wanting to show you the best Chiang Mai has to offer.
If you read my previous post about my time with Mama Nee, you’ll know that locals will even go out of their way to make you feel at home. Mama Nee was a local woman I met on my first trip to Chiang Mai. She took me in when I needed a place to stay when my accommodation fell through. And treated me like family.
The Friendly Travellers
Most people who travel to Chiang Mai, travel solo. Meaning, they too are looking to connect with others to avoid feeling lonely. There are many groups on Facebook and locally here that cater to expats. I’ve met so many wonderful travellers during my stay in Chiang Mai. Without travelling, I would have never met the people I have. Or shared a moment with someone from across the world. What makes us different is what unites us here in Chiang Mai. I love taking a moment to get to know new people and cultures.
Friendly Chiang Mai
All in all, this melting pot of different cultures, lifestyles, and people, are what make Chiang Mai as friendly as it is. Every day is an opportunity to make a new friend, meet new people, and make life long friendships. This is why I feel Chiang Mai is the friendliest city in all of Asia!
*Note: This article contains affiliate links. Clicking these links will not add any additional cost to you but will result in a small referral payment to us. In the month of December 2018, we will be donating ALL proceeds from our Amazon Affiliate account to Books for Africa; the charity mentioned at the conclusion of this article.
Holiday Travel Must Haves
We here at The Great Wander have spent a lot of time travelling the world in the past 7 years. During that time we have found a number of products that make living the nomadic life that little bit easier. These are our travel must haves.
For this Christmas season we want to highlight some of these must haves. We think these would make perfect gifts to yourself or for someone you know who has that travel bug.
Clicking on any of these product images will take you to either Amazon.com (for those shopping from the US) or Amazon.ca (for those in Canada). International customers can use either but note that a lot of these items will unfortunately not ship out of Canada or the US.
The most important item for all travelers is their passport. Make sure that you are able to look after it by protecting it from RFID scanning and from general wear and tear with this passport protector.
Refillable water bottle
Something we often all forget to do when travelling is to stay hydrated. Use a refillable water bottle that can be emptied for going through security checks. This can be refilled on the other side keeping you hydrated as you travel at the airport. I don’t know how many times going through security, we’ve forgotten and lost our purchased water bottles.
This is also handy once you get to your destination, as many places have non drinkable tap water. Filling up at a water cooler ensures you always have a drink when you need it the most.
Opening a bank account in a new country might seem daunting. If you are planning on a more than just a vacation to New Zealand and want to settle there then you are going to need to have somewhere to keep your travel funds (because that is one of life’s most important costs right?!). In this post I will take you through a review of the options you have available to you for banking in New Zealand. For banks I have used in the past, I will share what my experience has been.
Automated Teller Machines (ATM) are widely available from New Zealand banks, also along main shopping streets and in malls. There are many international banks operating in New Zealand, mainly located in the financial district of Wellington, the country’s capital city. They don’t however offer an extensive branch network throughout the country.
One of things you will notice in New Zealand is that we are little behind some of the worlds larger Western countries with our banking hours – you can normally only visit a branch between 9:30 AM and 4:00 PM Monday to Friday. This is gradually changing but be prepared for this.
We are however definitely up to speed with the best payment methods – you can use Apple Pay and PayWave in many places. You do not need cash for most transactions but if you find you do, there are ATMs available in almost all towns as well as the cities.
Something you will almost never find now with banking in New Zealand is personal checks (cheques to New Zealanders). When you are paid for working for someone you will almost always get your wages/salary deposited in to your bank account. We have embraced the electronic banking age wholeheartedly.
Opening a bank account in New Zealand is one of the easiest things you will do as part of the migration process – some banks can set you up in just minutes!
The most vital thing to be aware of are the fees and costs associated with New Zealand Banks. It is best to opt for a bank with a Migrant Banking service. These guys better understand the constraints a migrant has in terms of credit history and no previous experience using their banking products.
If you are considering a loan and going directly through your bank, first find out if they will actually lend to migrants, as it’s not always a given. Normally to activate your account you will be required to visit the bank’s branch in New Zealand with your ID documents (passport & address verification). Some banks will allow you to establish your account prior to departure and use your current address.
The Main Banks
There are seven main banks in New Zealand – the big four (ANZ, ASB, BNZ and Westpac) followed by the smaller TSB, Kiwi Bank and Cooperative. There are also credit unions and building societies that you can choose to bank with.
I personally have experience with ANZ, BNZ and Westpac and I can say that of the three, for normal everyday banking I think that Westpac offers the better solution.
Westpac products are easy to understand and there online and mobile apps are clean and snappy. The personal banking assistants that i have dealt with have been very professional. They know what they are selling and are very good at following up.
BNZ would be a close second. The only thing that let them down when compared to Westpac is that I felt that trying to set things up online through them was a little less intuitive. They did excel in their branches with plenty of knowledgeable staff and minimal wait times.
ANZ was my least favourite of the three I have banked with and most of this was to do with their online offering at the time. Their website was horrible to navigate especially with setting up new payments, finding statements etc. Also their mobile app was slow and cumbersome.
It should be noted that for BNZ and ANZ that it has been over 4 years for me since banking in New Zealand with either so the situation could well have changed. Doing your own research would be advisable.
So as you can see there are a few choices for how you decide to do your banking in New Zealand. As with anywhere else in the world, each bank is going to have its pluses and minuses.
I hope this article has helped ease your mind about setting yourself up with a bank in New Zealand. It really is a world class system.
There has been a lot of debate recently about what is ethical and not ethical when it comes to seeing elephants in Thailand. Tourists, lured by promises of an ethically compliant tour often get to the “sanctuary” to find the exact opposite of what should be happening with these elephants. Bamboo Elephant Family Care does deliver on their promises of being ethical, kind, and loving to the elephants they call family. I understand as I write this that there will still be those who disagree with my observations, however, this is a post on just that- my observations.
Full Day Tour
I chose this tour because of a combination of price and activities offered. The tour I did included a trek to a local waterfall, white water rafting from the top of the mountain, feeding the elephants, playing with them in the water, making medicine, and walking with them back to their mountain jungle home.
The trek to the waterfall is not an easy one and those with mobility issues will find this challenging. As someone slightly out of shape and bigger, this was a very difficult trek for me. And honestly, I didn’t make it to the top. I stopped near the top and was unable to continue. Here are some pics the guide took though of me going up the mountain. As you can see, I’m hot sweaty, and not enjoying myself.
This part of the tour was really cool. You travel down the hill a bit before coming upon a boat dock with rafts set up and waiting. Each boat contained about 8 people and a river guide. The course was not difficult. I would rate it a 1 out of 5 for difficulty. It was however a ton of fun! We played around splashing one another and the other boat along the course and made jokes about racing them.
At the bottom we were lucky to see some elephants playing in the water and cooling off. These were not the elephants from the tour, but rather other local’s pets.
The next part was a real treat. For both us and the elephants! We were given bananas to give to the elephants. Standing on a bamboo hut, the elephants came to the sides looking for their “Bon-bons”. Once the bananas ran out, the handlers asked for our help bringing large sticks of bamboo to the elephants for an extra treat.
The elephants would take the leaves from the sticks but leave the stalks on the ground. The handlers said they would come back for those later when there wasn’t anything else to eat.
Elephant Water Play
This part of the tour seems to be the one that brings in the most controversy. I have heard varying reports that elephants playing in the water was both natural and unnatural. From what I saw this day, the elephants seemed to enjoy their time in the water. The younger elephants ran to the water as soon as the food was gone to play.
The group went into the water to help “wash” the elephants and none seemed again to mind. When the elephants had enough, they walked out of the water and no one yelled at them. There are no harsh words, sounds, use of force, weapons, anything this day.
Making Medicines for Elephants
Because these elephants have been rescued from handlers who used them for work purposes, the handlers explained that they are not as active as they used to be. This causes them to have digestive issues as they eat a lot and don’t work it off.
The medicine we made was to help them with this problem. Using rice, tamarind, bananas, and some other ingredients, we made a paste for each of them to have. The elephants seemed to enjoy this part of the tour as well because it meant more food!
Walking Home with the Elephants
On the end of our day, the elephants needed to go back to where they normally hang out. This included walking with them up the side of the mountain to a grassy area. No ropes, no fences, just elephants and jungle. Exactly how you would picture seeing elephants in Thailand.
I am not an animal expert, nor am I going to pretend to be. But I am a consumer and human being. What I saw on this day was nothing but love and respect for these elephants. The handler told us stories throughout the day about the elephants, what they used to do for work, what they are able to do now, and why he started this business.
Most people claim that the businesses are only using the elephants for the money, and that is partially true. Even here. The handler explained that caring for an elephant is very expensive. Between the food costs and time looking after them, it is a full time job. The money we paid went directly towards the costs for each of these elephants.
Wild Elephants in Thailand?
Despite popular belief, there are no more wild elephants in Thailand any longer because of the deforestation and communities in the area. This isn’t to say the elephants are all treated badly. I like to compare them to domesticated dogs. If handled by the right person, the animal is happy in it’s environment. These elephants did not look in distress at any point during our tour. The handlers showed love towards the elephants (hugging them, patting them gently, sneaking extra food) and the elephants showed respect and love back to everyone in the group.
If the elephants can no longer be wild, wouldn’t you want to know that they are being well looked after? I sure do. And I felt nothing but compassion and love from this company with their elephants. Like the name suggests, this is a family. It just happens to include humans and elephants.
For more about my travels in Thailand, check out this article on my time with Mama Nee!
For budget friendly travellers, staying in hostels is essential for cutting costs. But do you ever think of your behaviour in these shared rooms? My experience staying in hostels tells me that not many people think of those around them before acting. This is why I have compiled my list of “6 Ways to be Polite while Staying in Hostels”.
1) Think before you act
This may seem like a no-brainer but from experience, other travellers treat the shared room as their own personal private room. Always remember that what seems to be okay at your home, in your culture, may be rude to someone else staying in the hostel. I always try to ask before I do anything that I might think could be considered rude such as taking pictures, talking at a normal volume, or taking up too much space.
2) Consider Quiet Hours are 24 Hours
Do you only sleep between 10pm and 6am? Probably not. If you are like most people travelling, your bedtimes will vary from day to day, experience to experience. This is the same for other people too! No one likes being woken up by someone else’s talking or making unnecessary noises. If you need to pack your bags and they might be loud? Take it outside. Pack during a time when everyone is awake or out of the room. Just be considerate.
3) Never Bring Plastic Bags
This should be on the signs on the hostel room door. I can’t begin to tell you how many times I have been woken up at stupid o’clock by someone getting things out of their plastic container bags. NO ONE wants to wake up to “crinkle crinkle, crinkle crinkle” for minutes at a time. I had a young man once in Ubud who started this at 6:00am. By 6:10am, I asked him to stop. He said he would “be done soon”. At 6:30am I lost it at him and went outside to cool off. He finished with his plastic bags around 6:45am. As he left the dorm, I asked him why would he not take the loud bags outside rather than waking up the whole room. His response? “Yeah, you’re right.” Damn straight! It is just RUDE.
Solution? Use packing cubes instead! And be sure to pack your bags, like mentioned above, at a more reasonable time. Sleep is important to everyone!
4) Keep your Stuff Contained
Being polite in hostels doesn’t just mean not being loud. If you can’t fit 90% of your stuff into the locker provided, why are you staying in hostels? Get your own room! This also applies to the bathroom/sink area. I don’t want to contend with 4 other people’s hair brushes, toothbrushes, hair products, and whatever else they throw on the bathroom sink without thinking. Again, it’s SHARED. And you are not the only person in the world. Solution? Get a bathroom storage bag (but not plastic!) and set on a shelf or under the sink. Or back in your locker.
5) Keep the Lights OFF Unless you Know Everyone is Awake
This kinda goes back to the “Think before you act” rule, but it’s worth mentioning again. Unless you KNOW everyone is awake and okay with the lights being on, KEEP THEM OFF. This may require you to talk to your dorm mates to gather from them when they are happy to have the bright lights shined on them and when they’d prefer to have peace and darkness. It’s worth the conversation.
6) Don’t EVER EVER EVER Go Into Someone Else’s Space
Unless you’ve been directly asked or KNOW you have permission. As you’ll read in my other article about hostels, I prefer cube hostels so I have more of a sense of privacy. If someone has their curtain closed, you are NEVER to open this. You are NEVER to go into someone else’s bed area without a direct invite. You should NEVER EVER EVER climb into bed with another sleeping guest. This all just so wrong in some many ways, I shouldn’t have to explain.
So here are my ways to be polite while staying in hostels. I base these from my experience. And my annoyances. Do you have any tips for being polite to share? Add them in the comments section below!
There are so many great places to see and adventures to be had in Europe. You will likely take many different forms of transport depending on where you go. This article outlines my experiences in Europe with some tips on how best get from A to B.
For those times where time is very important or other public transport cant get you close enough, Uber is perfect. I have not taken a traditional taxi in a European city where Uber is offered (aside from the Black Cabs in London) in several years. Price and convenience wise it is hard to beat.
Do note that Uber is NOT allowed in every city or country. It pays to look this up ahead of time so that you can be prepared to use traditional taxis or other transport.
I have used trains for travel within and between cities in a number of countries in Europe. Amsterdam has a very good setup for access from Schiphol Airport to the downtown city area. London also has a great setup with their trains with all of the major airports well serviced.
Often within a city other options are better – subway, streetcar or Uber – to get somewhere a little faster. Travel between cities and cross countries however, the train is a really good way to travel.
Train fares are very reasonable and there is fair bit of competition with different companies. Much less hassle than having to head to an airport or spend a longtime on a bus. A number of the trains I used offered good wifi, options for food and drink and, for the slightly longer journeys, cabins to sleep in.
Often buses can be overlooked as a form of transport when a tourist. I have found that sometimes they are the only way to get to more remote parts of a city.
Every city I have been has had a reasonable system and I have used many of them. A range of payments from those with cards you fill with credit to tap to others where they still operate with cash and paper tickets only.
Remember that buses can be the highest used form of transport for locals so take care around peak morning and evening times.
Often a subway can be one of the quick ways to get around a city. The systems I have used in London, Budapest, Vienna and Lisbon have all been very good. Many of these systems have stations that get you very close to the main attractions of the city. This can be handy when you are on a time crunch, the weather is not the best or you are mobility impaired.
I was amazed that unlike other systems I have been on, the subway in Vienna had full LTE mobile coverage for the entire journey. Great for those of us who cant be without out phone even for a few minutes at a time. As a tourist needing to use Google Maps to navigate my way around this was very useful. Vienna’s subway was super new and modern.
The systems are not quite as new looking in Lisbon, Budapest and London but that does not mean they are bad. They have very frequent trains, good signage and are fairly low cost. Also many of these cities have subways that run 24 hours now which is super convenient.
Street cars (trams or trolley buses depending on where you are from) are a nice way to see many parts of a city at a slower pace. The systems in Budapest, Amsterdam, Vienna and Prague were all great. There are a range of ages and styles depending on where you go. Myself I actually enjoy the older systems as long as the weather is not too cold! Amsterdam has perhaps the most extensive system and can get to close to virtually every tourist attraction.
It can be easy to get day passes and save a lot of money if you want to just be able to explore a city on your own.
For travel more than 4-5 hours by train it probably leans towards air travel being better more time and cost effective. With so much competition with airlines in Europe, you can get some amazing deal to hop between cities.
Remember when you do this that many low-cost airlines leave out the price of checked baggage in the price they list. Most of the airports in the bigger European cities have good amenities to make any wait a little more comfortable. I have been lucky to get in to several lounges and they can make a longer layover a lot more bearable.
Summing it all up
The most important thing you can do with any travel in Europe is plan ahead. Make sure you research what options are available in each city/area you will visit. Many will have good websites you can plan your routes and look up the costs. Take note of the season you will be there as that can make difference a big difference on the need to book ahead. Look up details on sites like TripAdvisor where people tell of their experiences.
A number of cities have joined their systems together so that you can use a single card to switch between many forms of transport. As a tourist this is a very attractive as it saves a lot of hassle. Also a lot of modern cities now realize the need for 24 hour travel and have their system open all day.
Lastly, make sure you have fun and try something different once in a while. I have not listed here special things like: gondolas, horse and carriage, river boats, tricycles – the list could go on. Each of these can give you a unique flavour and experience too.