I am the one who likes to read tons of blogs and reviews about the best way to use public transportation. For the most part, I felt the public transportation was much easier than I anticipated. So I also wanted to share the insights of our summer travel 2016. For costs and more details, I highly suggest reading the transportation section and other forums on trip advisor. I just wanted to show you that even though I worried so much (I am a huge worrywart), it ended out okay, and will be for you too! (for the below Scale 1-10 is easiest to hardest)
Heathrow into City
- Scale 1: There is only 1 line – Piccadilly? And there is someone at the tube who can help you buy your oyster card if you are confused. I initially was looking for the 2 for 1 deal and how to get a national rail paper ticket instead of oyster card but that was way too confusing for me to try to find their office, so just pay 5 pounds for the oyster card (which you get back) and top off (add money). So easy
- Scale 2: Once you get the hang of things, the tube/subway is actually very fast, comes frequently and pretty connected. One point off because our first day we were dumb people and didn’t realize the exits were at the end of the lines you get off (we initially thought you get off the train, go to a central point and then somehow get above ground), so were walking in circles and I was wondering if people ever got stuck and could never get out (because that’s what it felt like to us — we kept following the exit/out signs and somehow kept messing up for awhile).
- Scale 2: Also easy, but remember you need to Wave It Down! Our first bus came and went, because we didn’t realize it doesn’t just see people and stop (which makes sense since the bus stop is for multiple busses, but we rarely use the bus in the States so had no clue). The busses are clean and there is an electronic board stating the next stop so you won’t get too lost if you already mapped your stops beforehand.
- Can also use oyster card. I think the bus is just a one time subtraction (not depending on distance, unlike the tube which you have to swipe in and out so it’s more for the farther you travel).
Thalys: London to Paris, Paris to Amsterdam
- Scale 1: Our first train! Super clean and nice station in London. We also keep forgetting that there are places open in the morning (I get hangry, so am always afraid of this issue). Not too long to walk through passport control. The Paris side is a bit .. grittier. There are people to help if you have questions though.
- You can also buy a carnet of tickets to use for the metro in Paris either at information center (credit card only) or on the train (can use cash) — (more info, check out trip advisor, which is amazing for all of this information actually).
- The Amsterdam station really is like the star at the top of a Christmas tree. Also has tourist information sites (closes at times, so come during some regular hours).
Navigo Découverte Pass
- Scale 1: We bought a one week pass since our AirBnB was a bit outside of the main center and we’d have to train in/out daily. Also Paris is HUGE and when it’s hot, who wants to walk that much. So for us, it was way worth it. Once again I’ll refer you to trip advisor. It only works either Sun -> Sat or Mon -> Sun (I forget). Per online readings, you can start buying it at the end of the week (Thurs or Fri?). At most metro stations, there is someone to help. We had two people help us, as the first gentleman was so energetic and helpful and came out from behind his glass window to help us buy the tickets but then asked us to come back to help us validate it (I think we bought it 2 days early and he said we could only validate it the day before it starts… which is not what I read). Either way, we went the next day up to a random glass booth and the gentleman easily did that. Supposedly you add a 1x1cm (again, look this up) picture and you write your name on it. If you don’t have these mini passport photos, there are photo booths at a lot of the metro stations too (but it was kind of expensive at 5 euros if I remember). Nobody checked our cards, so I’m not sure if you absolutely have to add your photo to it.
Paris to Giverny
- Scale 1: I believe we took SNCF. We went to their ticket office (because we didn’t feel smart enough to buy ourselves). The lady spoke enough English to tell us we should buy an open return (basically no specific time) and gave us a ticket. Didn’t seem to be too costly, so A+
Giverny train station to Monet House
- Scale 3: There is a little tram, there are busses, you can rent bikes, and for us, we walked which was beautiful. This is where Google Maps kind of lead us astray (don’t follow it as it somehow wants you to walk on the main road which my guess would be kind of scary — I don’t think there’s a real sidewalk once you cross the Seine) and just follow the signs in Giverny. We came out of the train station (there’s two tracks, it’s a small station) and followed the curve of where the busses were parked, and then walked right up that street. You have to cross the Seine River. Somewhere on that walk, there is definitely a sign that kind of tells you where the walkway is and it says after you cross the river, you still need to walk straight a bit and turn off at a roundabout. We didn’t follow that, because I had always trusted Google Maps at that point. We turned 90 degrees right, right after the bridge. There was kind of a dirt trail so I thought I was on the right track. About 10 feet off of it, it seemed like the bike pathway veered left, so I thought we were still going about the right way. Then there’s kind of a sign that says trail. We ended up walking right along the Seine, and for awhile, you are behind a football field, and there’s not a real path and just some picnic tables and then you kind of just see shrubbery and to the right is this area of dirt and more trampled grass which is kind of worrisome if this is a real legit trail. Although this is not THE trail, it does lead you back onto THE trail so instead of what we did (I worried, made Clam walk a bit more other ways to check out if there were other trails – which is no, all dead ends), just take the shady looking trail. It’s kind of muddy at times, and on Google Maps you are just following the curve of the Seine River. We saw some early hikers who made me feel much better as they said this was the road to Giverny. And it’s actually quite pretty and peaceful, despite what may have been an error. As you curve out of the Seine and onto the main road, your little trail seems to end and you think the rest of the way you are to walk on the side of the road with the cars. That looks scary and do Not do this. Cross the main road, and go up the concrete path. Once you reach this cute house on your left where it looks like it could sell coffee but I’m not sure if it does (maybe 50 ft?), just turn right and you’ll see a concrete trail. Yay! I think this was the real trail we were supposed to walk the entire time! So then we did this for awhile (10-15 minutes?) On this trail, it was pretty and quiet and tree lined. But then it dumps you back to an intersection with the main road. On the left is some art gallery or store? There was a lot of yarn on the fence. Just turn left and take that road that seems to walk up a small hill and wind with it. There’s no sidewalk, but it’s a pretty walk past a lot of bed and breakfast’s and you’ll reach the entrance to the Monet House or at least more understandable directions at the end. Yay!
- Scale 1: After reaching the train station and information, step out of the gates (some people are swiping, but they are forever open and we didn’t have tickets to swipe) and go across the street/ tram tracks to the set of houses on your left which houses both a bigger tourist information and the public transport office. We got a 4 day pass since we were camping and needed to take the tram in/out every day. Otherwise, central Amsterdam is relatively walkable and others suggest no need to do this.
- You need to tap your card when you enter/ get off transport. The electronic signs will show the next stop, so all very easy.
…. this is what I had posted when we were in Europe.
We also went on multiple trains in Italy (Milan – Cinque Terre – Florence – Rome – Pompeii) and Spain which were not bad at all. Would advise get the faster trains without local stops, our daytrip from Rome to Pompeii took forever to get home because we took the cheapest train. I almost cried with all the delays.
Good luck and have fun!