Who likes paying extra for anything? Have you heard of the UK split tickets or split ticketing method?
When I am on the transport portion of the trip planning process, I use websites like Rome2rio to give me an inkling of the different ways one can get to a particular destination. After doing a generalise search on cost per transport method, I would then do a bit more detailed research.
I love the training method for travelling; it’s very relaxing for me. I can sit, read, chat with the family, and just watch the world go by without worrying about hitting the car ahead of me.
While I enjoy taking the train as much as possible, the train, especially in the UK can be quite a bit expensive. This is where the split ticketing method can save you loads of money.
London to Edinburgh by Train
Let’s just use London to Edinburgh for the purpose of this post…
According to Rome2rio, I can fly, drive or take the train over. In the past, I would use the Trainline or Raileasy website/app to book my tickets. I would either buy one ticket and be done with it or, if it’s a bit expensive, I’d try to see if it’s cheaper to buy one ticket to point A and then another from A to C.
In order to do what I did, one needs to know where the train goes and stops. Which to be fair isn’t that difficult. The Network Rail has done a really great job of providing a fab map for all to use. The difficult part is figuring which train ticket combo will be the cheapest. Would it be London to Peterborough then PB to York and then York to Edinburgh? Or would it be London to York and then Edinburgh? Or?? I love saving money and despite me being a stay-at-home-mom, I really never had time for these types of extensive research.
Last year, not long after we left the UK, something new came about in the UK train ticket purchasing market: “Split Ticket” service! To explain it better, Raileasy has a fantastic little video.
Does split ticketing make sense now?
To summarise, a split ticketing website scours all possible train journey from London to Edinburgh and finds you the perfect ticket purchasing combo for the least amount of price. So instead of buying one direct ticket from London to Edinburgh, you will be buying multiple tickets to Edinburgh. Does this mean you need to get off the train and catch a different one? Not necessarily.
Let’s use the London to Edinburgh with a change in York timetable, the one leaving at 08:06 from Kings Cross. If you look at the ticket, the normal cost for a train ticket from London to Edinburgh is £166. Now, I realise there is a cheaper and direct one at 08:00 but we’re trying to learn the concept of split ticketing and how it can save you loads of cash compared to the original price.
Before I go on, note the €194.67 on one of the screen captures.
Today’s exchange rate is €1 to £0.8988 £1 to €1.1126. If we use the XE app, based on today’s exchange, that €194.67 should be £174.98.
What’s my point?
TIP: ALWAYS look at prices using the website or the train company’s local currency.
All the websites I am using are UK based and the train ride is for the UK. Unless there is a huge happening in the stock/currency exchange, use the local currency for the best price.
So the above are normal rates.
Let’s use the split ticketing websites and I’ll use a few just to compare:
Raileasy also has a Split Ticketing tab — it’s next to the “Home” where one searches for normal fares
Did you notice that while the logos are different, the backend platform are the same? Yes, all three are using trainsplit.com system.
Did you also notice that one is cheaper, £52.98, than the other and that two of the websites charges a £1 booking fee besides a higher price of £57.40? The price difference and fees aren’t bad, especially considering the original price. At the same time, if one company can give me a couple of pounds discount, I’ll use it. To me, that’s a cup of coffee 😜
The breakdown of the ticket purchases is as shown below
All train timetables or changes will be the same. Ditto on seat reservations and how you collect your tickets. The only difference is the number of tickets you get.
So for this trip, instead of one ticket from London to Edinburg for £166, you will be collecting four tickets at the train station and saving you over £100! AMAZING!!!
I gave it a try and after using the details, Traintickets.com came in between Split My Ticket and RailEasy/Split Ticketing at £56.51.
Buying in advance will almost always give you the best price for direct tickets. Having a discount card helps also – I used to have the Friends and Family discount card. But when prices look high, don’t be discouraged. Give the split ticketing websites a go and see what it can give you.
I did some more playing at the cheapest I could get, while slightly longer trip, is £37.65. It’s only one change through some lovely areas and I really do love train rides.
That’s what I have to share with you today. I LOVE saving money before a trip because by doing this, I can spend more on the actual trip itself.
If you need to save this post for next time, just bookmark or PIN it 😘
Many of us love the idea of travelling. Whether it’s a day trip to the next city, a weekend away, or a long overseas trip, the thought of being away, hopefully relaxing also besides exploring, brings joyful feelings inside.
While I have always enjoyed the pre-trip planning process, I know many don’t. Many don’t know where to start and even when one does, she often can still feel overwhelmed with all the choices and uncertainties of a new place. This is where my FREE trip planning course can come in handy!
A couple of weeks ago I decided that one day I want to go back to becoming an instructional technologist again – ideally at a university. If you’re not familiar with this field, an instructional technologist is a person that would often be asked to the software research, the testing, doing and also the training.
Let’s use Instagram as an example. I would research it, not so much algorithm but how the piece of technology can be used in a learning environment. Then I would test to see if it would actually work – I’d work with a subject matter expert (SME) and test to see if Instagram can be a great tool to help students learn the subject.
If yes, I’d teach the faculty how to use IG and if I need to, do other tech work related to it (I may, for example, have to grab the API to connect the platform to the learning management system – LMS – or faculty website).
While I don’t need to have a course in my portfolio (since my goal is to be a technologist and not be a course designer), I need to know how to work the LMS. So having videos and other pieces included within a course makes my portfolio look better and in my CV I can say I know how to use this and that LMS with this and that tool.
45-min Mini-Course on the Basics of Trip Planning
Without further ado, if you are one of those who are either new to trip planning or anxious about it, I have for you a FREE 45-min mini-course on “Basic Trip Planning”. Just click the image below and you’ll be on your way!
A small catch, since I am currently not monetising from my blog, I only have a free Teachable account. Due to this, only a max of 10 students can enrol. If by chance many of you want to give the course a go and it’s full, let me know. I’ll give those who enrol about two weeks and then I’ll kick them out if they haven’t unenrolled themselves. This way new students can enrol. Thank you for your understanding and I’ll work on an e-book version of the course.
To my readers who have better things to do than spend 45-min listening to me talk, let me give you a quick summary of the basic of trip planning…
If you have been following me on Instagram, most of you would know that I rarely have a certain destination in mind. I often just wing it or I use the help of Skyscanner “Everywhere” and booking/AirBnB’s map features to help me choose. I used to have certain places I must go to but I think after living in Europe for almost 10-years, all my bucket list places have been ticked off and I am now operating on bonuses.
For those who have a certain destination in mind, let’s say a week trip to Paris and London or two weeks exploring Italy, what you need to do to move on to the next big steps are to figure out:
How to get there
Where to stay
What to see and where to eat
But before you get to those three, you need to make sure you know:
Who all are going and what the age ranges are
When you will be going
What you want to experience
How much your budget is
I call those four “The Big Four”.
The big four you need to answer first, ideally in that order, because there is a minor domino effect to each question.
The who will affect the when. Let’s say there are school-age children in the group. This will limit when you go… unless it’s ok to pull the kids out of school. If your 80-yrs-old grandma is also going, how mobile is she? If she’s not that mobile and your kids are preschool/kindergarten ages, then you will need to not pack too much in one day and include activities that will be memorable for the whole family. This then will lead to the budget.
Plane tickets for four in March can be quite a bit lower than tickets in July. A room for all or will you need to book two rooms? When to start saving and how much?
See the domino effect I mentioned?
One thing I forgot to mention in the course is how to estimate the daily cost. So let me do that here…
What I usually do is go on to Google Maps and go to the city/town/village that I will be in. Once there, I would type in “cafe and restaurants” and I’ll have choices. I’ll look at the photos of places that not only have the dishes we like but also have good reviews. If the photos look nice, I’ll see if it has a “menu” photo. If not, I’ll see if the place has a website and on that website, a menu.
I’ll do this for a couple of places to get a good grasp of how much food costs there and do some maths. My maths look something like this…
Breakfast at the apartment = €10 (me cooking and everything purchased from the grocery store). Lunch = €50 (for all four of us). Dinner = €15 (me cooking at the apartment). Ice cream, street food, coffee etc = €25.
More often than not, we eat out only for lunch. It’s cheaper and sometimes we even have leftovers, which we later finish at dinnertime.
Food total = €100
Transport and sites
Public transport-related stuff and fee-paying sites.
Since we often only do one paysite the whole trip, or max one a day, and walk as much as possible
This total = €50
This would be souvenirs and who knows what Jovie and Emma see along the way. Or, maybe it started raining hard and I forgot to pack an umbrella. This happened to us before and we had to buy two. Another time, one of the kids forgot a jumper and the weather got cold. That’s how we ended up with an “I Love Paris” overpriced hoodie.
Misc total = €50
Adding all that up, €200/day is how much I need to add into the flight and lodging cost.
If the trip is a 14-days trip, the flight is €2500, lodging is €1200 then the approximate grand total cost would be €6500.
This mini-course is what I want to share today and I hope to share many more tutorials and whatever research findings I may have whilst I practice using different tools.
I would appreciate the feedback and if I should do more courses or stick to blogging 😜
Planning your trip to London and before you know it, you’ll be faced with this question: should I buy the London Pass? Is it worth the money? How can I figure this out?
If you don’t know already, with the pass, you can have access to 80+ sites. This means you buy one pass and you don’t have to pay to enter any of the participating sites. Some of the sites you can visit are:
The View from the Shard
Charles Dicken’s Museum
Churchill War Rooms
*Hampton Court Palace
*London Bridge Experience and London Tombs
*St Paul’s Cathedral
*Tower Bridge Exhibition
Tower of London
Windsor Castle (free transport included)
Fast track available (*)
Other perks of the pass are fast-track entry for certain sites, 1-day hop-on-hop-off bus (HOHO bus), and exclusive discounts to partner retailers.
After your purchase, you can also download their guidebook with all sorts of London tips. If you have a smartphone, you can download their mobile app and the pass will automatically load after your purchase. No need to carry around a paper copy.
Sounds good, right? It does! But for some, the price may seem a tad bit high, especially if they are travelling with a big family or if they are on a tight budget. This is where this post comes in.
There are five different choices for the London Pass, depending on how many days you want to be sightseeing to these major London attractions.
One day is £75/adult and £55/child Two days is £99 and £75/child Three days £125 and £89/child Six days £169 and £125/child Ten days £199 and £149/child
As you can see, the more days you purchase, while the overall cost is more expensive, the more you save.
So, how does one decide if the pass is good to purchase or not? The basic rule of thumb is:
Yes to buy if you:
Want to visit many of the sites London is famous for
Are able to visit 2-3 of these sites in one day
Don’t want to worry too much about spending money once in London
Don’t want to spend time pre-purchasing tickets from the many websites before your visit to London or don’t want to spend time queuing for tickets on the day
No to buy if you:
Only want to visit a few of the places listed
Want to go on a more leisurely pace
Are with small children
On a short visit and want to also visit the many free sites in London
Are motivated to pre-purchase your tickets before arriving in London or queuing on the day
London Must See/Do
The next step of the decision-making process is to sit down and decide what you want to really see and do while you are visiting London. Obviously the more days you have the more you can enjoy but often times than not, people visit London for a week or less. So many choices but so little time.
he decision-making process is to sit down and decide what you want to really see while you are visiting London. Obviously the more days you have the more you can enjoy but often times than not, people visit London for a week or less. So many choices but so little time.
Let’s say you’ll be in London for five full days and after seeing many of the London choices, you decided that you want to visit and do the following sites and activities (note that the price listed are pre-purchase online prices which are often cheaper than buying at the gate).
Day 1: London Bridge Experience, Tower of London, Tower Bridge, and the Shards Day 2: St Paul’s Cathedral and Westminster Abbey Day 3: Kew Gardens and Hampton Court Day 4: Windsor Castle Day 5: Free day and great time to do the Hop-On-Hop-Off bus and River Cruise
For each of the sites listed, the prices are below (these are September 2019 prices):
Total price: £233.05 (train price to and from Windsor included).
At that price and itinerary, a 6-days pass for £169/pp will definitely be a money saver! If you’re truly just in London to hit as many places as possible, you can even add a few more sites in between what you have listed above. The HMS Belfast for example before the Shard.
London with a Family
What if you have a family? The process is the same. You go to each website and see what the cost is for your and your family and add them all up. When you are going through this process, what I want you to pay attention to is if there is a family ticket option. If there is, and your family fits the criteria, do plan on purchasing the family ticket. It can save you a bit of money.
To help clarify this, I’ll give you an example and we’ll use the Tower of London for this.
An adult ticket is £24.70 and a child age 5-15 ticket is £11.70. Children under 5 are free. If you are a family of four, two adults and two children, your ticket total would be £72.80. But don’t just purchase ala carte! On the website, there is a family package option for £62.90. Almost a £10 savings!! Buy it!
Pay attention to opening and closing times when planning your sightseeing route. The Shard is open late and night view of London can be as amazing as sunset view so putting the Shard last and late would be perfectly fine. Also, don’t forget this part of the London Pass condition:
All London Passes are to be used on consecutive days – NOT 24 hours. For example, if you have a 3 day London Pass and start using it on a Tuesday, it will be valid for that day, Wednesday and Thursday.
Note: If you start using you London Pass in the evening or late in the day that will count as your first day.
The top paid sites in London are amazing and I highly recommend seeing as many as you possibly can. At the same time, don’t forget the plethora of free ones that London has to offer. Some of my favourites are the below but there are many many more! This was why I didn’t pack the above itinerary with 20 paid sites. Some of my favourite free sites and activities to do in London are:
The Science Museum (kids love this place!)
The British Museum
Natural History Museum
Exploring the many street foods in Borough Market and Camden Market
Nottinghill market and neighbourhood
Hampstead Heath, which includes a lovely hike and view of London
Mews of London
Incorporating all my favourite sites into my itinerary, my days will now look like this:
Day 1: London Bridge Experience, book lunch at the Sky Garden, a stroll through St Dunstan, Tower of London, maybe St Katherine’s Docks marina for coffee (keep in mind closing time for the next site), Tower Bridge, a meal at Butler’s Wharf and watch the Thames life go by, and end at the Shards.
Day 2: Start with HOHO and stop at St Paul’s Cathedral, the National Gallery if you are into art, British Museum if you are into ancient art, Science/Natural History Museum, and Westminster Abbey. Just keep in mind when your Pass sites are open so not to miss them.
Day 3: Kew Gardens and Hampton Court. This is on one tube route and you will be spending all day at these two places. Plan on entering Kew at opening time so not to waste your day.
Day 4: Windsor Castle and spend the day checking out the town
Day 5: The National Gallery, Chinatown, any place the HOHO went by the other day and you want to explore more of, a day in Hampstead, if a Harry Potter fan, walk through some of the areas where they filmed or JK was inspired by. Or, use this day to go to the HP studio.
The above will take up most of your days. But, if you have a short amount of time and this is your first time, you probably want to see as much as possible. Plus, most sites close by 6 pm, so you will have plenty of time to hang out at the many London pubs and eateries.
London with Kids
If you have little kids… as much as you want to see as many places as you can, you just gotta be a bit more realistic. Do the HOHO, yes to the cruise, but do pick and choose which paid sites will be worth going to with them. By incorporating the free, and often quite child-friendly sites, you will not only have a very memorable and educational time in London but also a more budget-friendly one.
Some super friendly children attractions I recommend are:
I should have written this one a long time ago since I lived just minutes away. But, for whatever reason, I never thought of it. Maybe because I was too busy Instagramming the city 😜
Since many of you will most likely be arriving via plane or car from the direction of London, let me start this post with how to get to Cambridge from London.
While you can walk and cycle to Cambridge, I am going to focus on taking the bus, train or car to this amazing city (which I still claim as my city 😏).
If you drove from, what I like to call, the mainland, just use your car SatNav or mobile phone SatNav (Google Maps, Waze or Map.me) and mosey your way on to Cambridge. If you are still in the planning stage and want to know what the cost of petrol will be, use ViaMichellin’s website to help you with this.
For parking, you have a few choices to choose from. Like many cities in the UK, Cambridge has a fabulous P&R service. Coming from London, you’d see the Babraham P&R first if on the A11 and Trumpington P&R if on the M11. If by any chance you came via the Amsterdam/Hook of Holland ferry to Harwich, your nearest P&R will be the Newmarket one. This was my usual spot to park the car.
The cost is very affordable, £3/pp, compared to parking in the city. The car itself is free for the first 18hrs. After that it’s £10/day. Do though visit the website for the latest info on pricing. You can pay in cash or card at the machine on-site or, pay cash or contactless card to the driver. You can have up to three children per paying adult. The stop for the P&R will be
If you rather park in the city, you can use their website to find which car park is available. Unless you are there early a weekend or on a really miserable day, the Grafton is often full. Which is quite interesting because this is the most expensive car park in Cambridge. Unless I plan on doing some serious shopping (then I’d queue and wait for a spot at the mall), my go-to car park is Queen Ann’s. There’s almost always a spot for me here.
You can also park at the train station and from there rent a bicycle. This is how the local travel within the city, besides walking, and you can cover a bit more ground.
You can catch the bus to Cambridge from either Bethnal Green or Victoria Coach Station. Ideally, you want to go from Victoria Station. There is a faster bus coming from this station vs from Bethnal Green. You can use the Omio website/app to purchase your tickets, at the station or directly on National Express’s website. Going direct on the website is the cheapest! You can get to Cambridge for only £4.70/pp one-way (Omio was £7 for the same time).
Tip: For the cheapest fare, try to buy the tickets a few days in advance. On the day, the cheapest maybe twice as much, if not way more. This is the same for train travels in the UK.
My favourite way of getting between London and Cambridge. There are two train schedules, the one I usually go on is the one that takes 45/50min from King’s Cross station. You can also hop on the train that has more stops along the way. Whichever one will get you to Cambridge. You can also catch the train leaving Liverpool Street station.
I usually buy my ticket on the Greater Anglia site or using the trainline app. Unlike the bus, the prices between the two websites are the same.
If you travel to Cambridge on a weekend, you can take advantage of the discounted off-peak round trip ticket that is around £13-18/pp.
Unfortunately, during the weekday, you will have to pay a steeper price of around £38/pp. To get a cheaper price, you will need to buy timed tickets like the example below, a £20 round trip cost.
You are now finally here! What to do?
Cambridge has many things to offer. You can wander around looking at all the colleges, you can punt, you can watch people punt, try some of the offerings at the market, on a good day, have a picnic lunch or have a lovely walk/bike ride to Grantchester and back.
Do note, if you plan on visiting the colleges, try to make sure that you’re not visiting during exam week and also before and a bit after graduation. Many if not all the colleges will be closed for visitors, or with limited time. If you are allowed to enter, please be respectful of those teaching and learning there. Another note, don’t step on the grass. You’ll be told off. I know from experience 🙈
In my humble opinion, Cambridge needs two days to really do it justice. But if you only have a day, you can. You may have to remove a few colleges for example. Maybe just visit King’s or skip King’s and do the other free colleges. Or, not sit down to eat/drink much. In the summer, this itinerary is more doable because the days are just so much longer. Without further ado, here’s my suggestion. But first, coffee!
Upon arrival, make your way to any of these cafes for coffee and possibly breakfast.
Espresso Library: One of my favourite for coffee and avocado on toast. If you arrive by bus or parked at Queen Ann’s car park, this will be your nearest coffee shop.
Hot Numbers on Trumpington St: Cambridge isn’t short of fantastic coffee shops I tell you and this place roasts and sells their own coffee. When arriving by train or you parked at Queen Ann’s, this cafe will be en-route to King’s College.
Fitzbillies: Another favourite, not far from Pembroke College is this wonderful cafe. Besides coffee and breakfast, Fitzbillies is well known for its buns. Give it a try and tell me what you think! Only in Cambridge!!
If you get on/off the P&R bus on Bridge Street and in need of coffee and/or a bite to eat, there is a Fitzbillies on that street also. Besides Fitzbillies, there is Bould Brothers Coffee. A fabulous coffee shop that is more often than not, busy. Seating is limited but if you’re lucky and be able to snag one, it’s a treat of a place!
Once you have a full stomach, in one, I suggest the following itinerary — assuming you came by train but you can adjust accordingly if you came from the other direction. Use Google Maps while going through the below itinerary.
Swing by Peterhouse College. It is the oldest and smallest of the University of Cambridge colleges. The chapel is stunning!
A visit to Pembroke College is a must. It’s one of my favourite colleges to visit and it’s free.
Between Pembroke and King’s College is a funky bug clock, the Corpus Clock. I am not a fan myself but it is unique and while you are there, may as well give this clock a look.
Around the corner from this clock is the Eagle’s Pub. Back during WW2, this was the hangout place of US service members. Now, if you look up, you can see many of their signatures. This pub was also where DNA was most likely talked about a lot. Watson and Crick hung out here quite a bit and supposedly, Watson walked in one day and announced that he and Watson found the secret of life.
Across from King’s College is Great St Mary’s Church. There is a small fee to enter and go up to the tower but it’d worth it. From up there you can get some fabulous view and of course, photos.
From the church tower you’ll notive that the market is just behind the church. Visit it and try some of the street food that are there. I have my favourites but they are all good!
If the weather is nice and you crave gelato, Aromi is just around the corner on Peas Hill. You’ll see Cath Kidston from the market and pass it is Aromi. They also sell delicious coffee, pizza and arancini. I ALWAYS stop by here for arancini. No shame!
Next is Gonville and Caius. I love the main quad here and also the chapel. I have always hoped to bump into Stephen Hawking but alas, that hope never came true.
Between Gonville and the Senate House is a passage. Walk through it. It’s a gorgeous passage and it’ll take you to Clare College. Clare is almost always open, even during exam days. Be respectful, walk through the gate to the back of the college. There is a bridge back there and it’s a pretty view.
Keep walking and before you hit the road is a right turn. Turn right. On Google Map, you’ll see two green space. After South Paddock, turn right. This will take you to Trinity College. This area is also very picturesque. Spend some times snapping and admiring.
When you hit Trinity college, turn right. From the main road, you need to turn left. But before you do, go right first and snap a few photos from this bridge. BE CAREFUL! Lots of bikes whizzing through. I mean really whizzing through sometimes.
Trinity College requires a small fee to enter and view. But, as you walk back to Trinity Lane, you’ll see a decent size gate on your left. This gate is usually open and you can enter, at least until the do not enter sign, and snap a few quick photos of the quad.
After this gate, you’ll hit Trinity Lane. Turn left and follow this road back to Trinity Street. The street you’ll be walking on is another stunning street. Look forward and backwards for some more amazing architecture and photo opportunities.
Turn left on Trinity Street and you will then pass the main gate of Trinity College. This would be where you pay and enter if you wish. After this gate is the Isaac Newton apple tree. FYI: This isn’t really THE apple tree. If such a tree exists, it’ll most likely be at his home in Woolsthorpe Manor — a highly recommended place to visit if you are in the area longer and have a car.
If you are visiting on a Saturday, across from the apple tree would be the Saturday arts and crafts market. If you’re looking for a local souvenir made by local artists, this may be the place to find such a thing.
After Trinity College, and with college on your left, keep walking and you will hit the Round Church. This church is not unique, it is also the second oldest building in Cambridge. Loads of history and if you wish, you can also book a walking tour while you’re here. The tour starts at 2pm.
Tired after this walk? Visit the 1815 bar just around the corner! It has coffee, refreshing beer and wine, and also food. All profits go to charity. Two of my favourite coffee spots are here also, Bould Brothers and Fitzbillies.
After the church and may after a sit-down, go punting! As you walk a long the city, you’ll notice many young folks offering punting service. You can either purchase then or you can also pre-book online. I don’t know if it’s any cheaper pre-booking or not. Often you can negotiate in person. But if you want to pre-book and guarantee cheapest price, you can try these companies: Scudamore, Cambridge Punting, Let’s Go Punting. Punting is awesome because you can get a different view of the colleges and along the way get a good view of Mathematical Bridge and Bridge of Sighs.
After the punting, you can either go back towards the Round Church and make your way back to the city centre and the bus to either take you back to car park, P&R or train station. Or, pop into Magdalene College right next to where punt ended.
I know it’s a full day but on a long summer day, it’s a do-able loop. During the shorter winter months, you’ll just have to be a bit more choosy. If you’re struggling to choose, things not to miss in Cambridge is: punting. This will give you not only a fabulous view via the river but also a bit of history. Most of the punters are students and they know their Cambridge! After punting, it depends on your interest. I’d pick one of the colleges to visit, go up to St Mary’s tower for a fab view, and Eagle’s Pub.
If you rather do a tour, Cambridge has a fantastic free walking tour which will take you to all of the colleges I mentioned above. While it is free, if you are happy with your tour (which I am sure you will be), leave your student guide a nice tip. There are usually two tours a day, one at 11am and the other at 2pm. Booking can be done online and if you rather a private tour, you can book this also.
In my day trip itinerary above I didn’t include wandering about the pretty neighbourhood of Cambridge. There just isn’t enough time to do that on a day trip to Cambridge. But, in case your Cambridge goal is to wander about these pretty areas, you can find those areas in Google Maps provided below.
For a longer visit, and if the weather is decent, a walk to Grantchester and back. Grantchester is a lovely village and if you’re familiar with the TV show with the same name, well, this was where the series was shot.
I want to add a few more things to not only help you travel through Puglia but also through Italy in general. As a heavy phone user and also being a sucker for trying out software and apps, I have tried quite a bit. Like anything else, I love some and think others are meh.
Here I will share those I love and those that I don’t necessarily love but believe that they’re very functional and have a high probability of helping somebody with her travels. Summer last year I did write a post on some of my favourite UK/London apps. Have a quick read there, especially under “General”, and you can add what’s listed there to what I will write here.
So here goes…
When I wrote the Puglia by public transport post, I used a lot of info from the train/bus/regional transport website to gather the bus and/or train schedule. While I recommend doing this for buses, train travels are easier to plan with
Trenitalia: The official Italian train company’s app. You can look up schedules and also buy tickets online.
Italo: Privately owned high speed train company that connects about 20 cities in the northern part of Italy. If you are travelling from Venice to Rome for example, check Trenitalia and Italo’s schedule and prices. Ditto like the Trenitalia app, you can look at schedules and book tickets.
OrarioTreni: This will check all possible Italy train schedule for your trip. The app will tell you which company, i.e. Trenitalia or Italo and prices. Purchases will be a redirect to the official company’s website. The e-ticket will then synchronise into this app.
Wanderio: It searches for bus, train and flight schedule in cities throughout Europe. What I did notice, at least for Puglia, is that some buses are not showing up in this app. An example is from Martina Franca to Ostuni. I know there is a bus going between these two cities because I was on one but the app couldn’t pull any of it up. When I input my remote town to Mannheim, nothing was showing. So, great to use for bigger cities and not so much for more obscure locations/timetables. For those, check the local bus website for the timetable. Also, the price showing on the initial results screen may not be the actual lowest price available once you click to see. When I input Lecce to Rome, it showed the lowest price as €8 but when I clicked it, the lowest price, the actual price, was €60.
Scooterino: The scooter version of Uber, equivalent to Gojek in Southeast Asia. Rome’s traffic isn’t for the faint of heart and what’s a better way to navigate through the busy and sometimes manic street? The scooter.
MyTaxi: If you need to hail a cab or get an estimate on how much a journey will cost. You can pay using the app or in person.
I listed Google Maps and Waze in the London apps list. I use Waze strictly for driving because it tells me when there is some sort of road issue and it re-routes fairly well. Google Maps, besides using it as a SatNav, I use it to find all sorts of places and to also read reviews on these places. While I can use Google Maps to help me route my travels, I rather use Sygnic for this. Adding to the London list:
Maps.me: A handy offline map. It can show you driving and walking directions and also, if possible, the public transport option to get you from A to B.
Zonzo Fox: An app to help you travel through major cities/area of Italy. You can get help on what to see, where to eat, basic info about where you’re visiting and also, via the app, you can get in touch with local guides to help your visit be more personalised and memorable. The smaller cities, while there is a mini-guide available, at this time, it’s quite minimum on the info.
MoovIt: I adore Citymapper, especially in London. But Citymapper is limited on the cities it covers. As an add-on, download MoovIt, who claims to have 1200 cities worldwide in their system. One thing I love in this app is the “Get Off” alert.
The below are lists of apps to make your travel a bit more comfortable, memorable and educational
Nasoni (Android only): An app to help you find the nearest drinking fountain. In Rome there are about 2500 Nasoni (nasone — pronounced na-so-ney — is the singular word) and the oldest ones can be found around the Trastavere area.
WeTap (iDevice): It covers the world. Never go thirsty again.
Flush: After all that drinking, you are going to need to use the toilet I am sure!
MedinAction: One can get sick when on holiday. If that issue arise, no worries! This app can help you get connected to English speaking doctors in Rome, Naples, Milan, Bologna, Venice and Florence. This is a home visit service and one visit cost €100/€140 depending on when the visit is. If you have insurance, the company can work with your insurance directly. App wise, it’s iDevice only at this time but you can request visits via the website.
Time Travel Rome: All these ancient sites and nobody to explain. No worries, this app can help! This app doesn’t just explain ruins and sites in Rome. It does it for many major Roman artefacts found in Europe, Middle East and North Africa.
WiFi Italia: Find free WiFi hotspot services across Italy
The above is what I have for you today. While apps are awesome and handy, before you jet off to Italy, do visit the tourism websites for each city. They can often be loaded with many info and also a calendar of events for the month. Some fabulous tourism board’s sites are
FINALLY, having the time to blog about my trip to Puglia with Ellie. As usual, I have been meaning to write as soon as I got back home but life got in the way and here I am, a month later. Better late than never, right?
The reason I wanted to write this blog post was due to the challenges of finding public transportation info, especially the Puglia bus portion, online. While we felt like we did quite a bit of research before the trip, we still had to do more than usual during the trip.
Ellie and I considered ourselves professional travelers and public transport in countries outside the UK and Germany aren’t foreign to us. But we did find ourselves challenged during our Puglia trip when it came to trying to catch the bus from one town to another, in particular, Locorotondo to Ostuni.
Without further ado, here we go…
For this one week trip we chose this route: flying into Bari, and then on to Polignano A Mare, Locorotondo, Alberobello, Ostuni, Lecce and flying out of Brindisi. We stayed on night in each town/city except for Ostuni, where we stayed two nights, and Alberobello was a day trip from Locorotondo.
Ellie came from London-Stansted and I came from Frankfurt. While this itinerary is from Bari to Brindisi (the two main airports in Puglia), you can go the opposite direction if the timing of the flights and/or price are better for you. For us, after a few days of thinking, Bari to Brindisi was the best.
Bari is the capital of Puglia. A port town with a cute town centre that’s worth at least half a day of exploring. The centre has many cute alleyways, a fabulous square with yummy gelato, and this round fried dough ball, Pettole, that’s a must-try.
From London/Frankfurt, if booking in advance, one can easily find an inexpensive Ryanair flight for under 50 Pounds/Euro. When planning this trip, Ellie and I bought our tickets two months in advance and our tickets were around €75/rt each. The price included priority boarding.
If cost is a factor, then you’d wait for the bus. But if it’s all in the timing, then whichever gets you to the centre first.
Please click on the links above to see the timetables for each mode of transportation. When reading timetables, make sure that you are going the right way. For the train from the airport, you want to look at the Barletta Centrale to Bari Centrale, with the Aeroporto stop midway, schedule.
For my trip, I opted for the train. My flight arrived at 15:50 local time and my choices were.
Train: 16:12 and 17:15 Tempesta Autoservizi: 16:15 and 17:20 Terravision: 16:00 and 17:25 #16 bus: 16:35 and 17:25
The Train Experience
Because there was no passport check (Germany and Italy are Schengen countries, so no passport checks. But if you fly from the UK, there will be a passport check and in Ellie’s experience, it took her about 15 minutes to get through that) and I also only had a carry-on, I was able to get to platform 1 at 16:06 and made the 16:12 train. I bought my train ticket online while I was walking.
There were a couple of ticket kiosks at the station and an attendant was there to help. It wasn’t busy when I got there but I am one to always buy in advance when on a tight schedule. I also jogged a bit after the ticket kiosks because I was a bit nervous about catching the train. I wasn’t sure how long the walk was. But, while it was a decent walk, I could have just walked and been there at 16:08.
Note on buying your train ticket online…
It took a few minutes (mine took less than five minutes) from when you submit your purchase to receiving the email with the QR code in it. You need the QR code to enter the platform. BUT, if for whatever reason the email doesn’t come in quickly enough, speak to the attendant and s/he will help. My email did come in by the time I got to the platform but if not, I just had to ring for help at the entrance gate and the attendant will open the gate for you. If you are confident that you will be taking the train from the airport, you can purchase the ticket before your flight, the ticket is just a day ticket.
If the kids were with me, I may have gambled for the 16:12 train (cause my kids are older and by now they’re semi-pro at bus/train chasing) or take the 16:15 Tempesta shuttle. The bus stop is closer to walk to than the train station and we would have comfortably made it there by 16:00. But if I was with younger kids and adamant about catching the train, I would have opted for the 17:15 train. Since I am never adamant about public transport, I would have just walked out and queued for the 16:15 shuttle.
If you arrive after midnight, taxi (about €20) is the only way to go. Some reputable taxi companies are Taxi Apulia, Radiotaxi and EuroTaxi.
Whichever your choice, all four public transport will bring you to Bari Centrale.
Polignano A Mare
The train that goes through the northern coastal route goes from Foggia, north of Bari, to Lecce. This route passes through Polignano A Mare, Monopoli, Ostuni, and Brindisi.
From this image below, you can already see how easy it would be to move from one Puglia town to another via train. But, who wants to do that when there are so many gorgeous villages in the centre of this region, right?
To get us warmed up for the adventure ahead, Ellie and I decided on an easy train ride to Polignano A Mare. Just three stops away from Bari Centrale. While you can buy your tickets online, we just opted to buy our tickets at the kiosk before heading out. The cost was €2.50/pp. Ticket machines take cash and cards (contactless also, which includes Apple/Google Pay). We did though use the website to look at train/bus timetables between Bari and Locorotondo. After Locorotondo it was a different train/bus company – a different website to look at timetables and for purchase if you choose to go the online buying route.
Note: many regional tickets are just day tickets. The indication is that there’s no specific time travel time on the ticket. If this is the case, you will need to validate your ticket on one of the little yellow boxes in front, next to or not far from where you bought your ticket, before you enter the platform or at the platform itself. Unfortunately, I forgot to photograph this machine but a quick Google can help you see what this gadget looks like.
Polignano’s station is very small and from the station to the centre, it’s about a 10 minute walk.
What to do in Polignano?
Wander through the alley and along the coast. So many stunning views! Also, don’t forget to pop in for some local dishes besides more coffee and/or wine. One place our apartment host in Bari recommended was Pescaria. It’s a very casual seafood restaurant. You order at the bar and you wait for your number to be called… often in Italian. Luckily Ellie understood because if not, I would have gone hungry that evening from waiting 😂
My most favourite town that we visited that week. It’s whitewashed, old, not so busy with tourist buses and with many charming alleys full of potted plants.
NOTE: the FSE railway line between Polignano and Martina Franca is being renovated and it will be closed until, maybe, the end of 2020. This is on the train line between Bari and Lecce that goes through the towns of Putignano, Alberobello, Locorotondo, Martina Franca, Cesternino, and ends in Lecce.
Until the renovation is finished, there will only be buses operating between Putignano to Martina Franca.
We didn’t know about the renovation and that made our bus wait a bit longer. But we figured it out and I shall explain so that this won’t happen to you!
There are different routes from Polignano to our next lodging in Locorotondo. You can take the train to Monopoli (it’s the same train line that goes from Bari to Lecce) and then switch over to the bus that will take you to Locorotondo. Or, take the train to Fasano (the stop after Monopoli, and take the bus from there.
Ellie and I decided to do the Fasano route because we couldn’t figure out where the bus stop is in Monopoli. If it’s just outside the station or a ten minutes walk away (Google Maps and Google searching in general didn’t help us). For Fasano, I thought I knew where the bus station was to take us to Locorotondo but I was wrong. Luckily our bus drive that took us from the Fasano station to the centre was very kind and helped us!
So here’s the way to do it…
Fasano’s train station is actually outside of the city. But no worries! There is a shuttle bus that goes from the station to the city. There is no shuttle schedule and I think the city just makes sure that there is just always a bus ready each time a train comes in. The ride is less than 10 minutes.
NOTE: while you can buy a bus ticket on the bus, it is cheaper to buy from a tabacchi (tobacco shop), petrol station and some other kind of shop that are authorised to sell bus tickets.
Conveniently there a shop right across from the station. Unfortunately for us, their ticketing machine was down that day and we had to buy a more expensive bus ticket from the driver. I can’t remember how much but it was about as much as our ticket from Polignano A Mare to Locorotondo 😜
Take the shuttle from the Fasano train station to its last stop. Once you get out off the bus, turn right and walk towards the Trapani Francesco bike shop (this link will take you to Google Maps). At that bike shop you can buy bus tickets to Locorotondo (and other destinations). After you buy the ticket, walk out the door, cross the street and the bus stop is right there. There is no sign. But somehow everybody knows it’s the bus stop for Locorotondo. You can ask the shop keeper to confirm and the bus came right when it was supposed to.
The ride to Locorotondo is pretty and if you are lodging in the centre, you want to stop at the Martina Franca – Via Cisternino stop. From here it’s just an easy five minutes walk to the centre.
If you are taking the bus to Martina Franca or back to Fasano, remember this stop. You’ll need to come back here. The Fasano bus will of course be across the road, in front of the Farmacia.
After checking in to our apartment and freshened up a bit, we decided to visit Alberobello just 8.3 km away, a nine minutes bus ride away. As many of you probably know, this town is a UNESCO Heritage site that’s known for its Trulli homes.
Remember the note above about the train stations being renovated? Yea, there is no train in between these two towns, just buses. Despite no train, the easiest place to catch the bus to Alberobello is from the train station and at the station, you can use the ticket machine to buy the bus tickets to Alberobello.
When looking at the train’s website, look for the non-bus schedule. This bus will be the one that’ll be picking you up from the train station.
Where we got dropped off in Alberobello and later picked-up you can see in the map below. We should have bought our return tickets in Locorotondo but for whatever reason we forgot and had to find tickets in Alberobello. It may have been just that day/week but the ticket machine at the Alberobello train station wasn’t working properly. None would finish the transaction. But, we learned that the petrol station next to the bus stop sold bus tickets and so we ended up buying there. There was also a loo.
We didn’t stay too long in Alberobello. The centre where the Trulli are located isn’t very big and we felt a bit crowded with all the tourists there. I wouldn’t not visit. I highly recommend seeing these unique dwellings. At the same time, it felt a bit too busy and we took the 17:52 bus back to Locorotondo.
What to do in Locorotondo?
Just wander the many beautiful alleys, get lost and snap away. Best time is during the golden hours of course but really, anytime will do.
Locorotondo to Ostuni was a bit tricky. Initially, we were supposed to head out around noon to Martina Franca, then catch the train to Ceglie Messapica and from there a bus to Ostuni. But for whatever reason, the wrong time was read for the bus to Ostuni.
There is a frequent enough bus going from Locorotondo to Martina Franca.
There is a frequent enough train from Martina Franca to Ceglie Messapica (and it goes all the way to Lecce).
The mistake we made when planning our trip was that we didn’t notice the military hours used in the schedule. We thought that there is a bus from Ceglie to Ostuni, a 20-minute ride, at 6 o’clock in the evening. So, if we didn’t double-check our logistics the night before, we would have been stuck in Ceglie Messapica. Eeek!
Thankfully we found a bus from Martina Franca to Ostuni. Ellie and I were gutted that we couldn’t visit Ceglie, we heard and saw many stunning bits of the town, but hey, when relying on public transport, you sometimes have to adjust. So here goes plan B… a 15:10 bus!
Back in Locorotondo… we bought tickets to Martina Franca at a travel agency just around the corner from the bus stop. I asked the lady on where to catch the bus and she said just around the corner. About 15 minutes before the 12:14 bus was to depart, we left the apartment. There was plenty of time still and we stopped at the cashpoint just across the street from the bus stop. 12:20 came and nothing. So I asked the travel agent again and they said yes, right there. We waited another 10 minutes and decided to wait at the cafe next door. We stayed there until about 13:10 and when we walked out, there was a queue of people waiting for the bus.
Ok, what happened? Can anybody guess?
Yup! the 12:14 one didn’t have (bus) next to it and the 13:20 did. SO… this basically means that the 12:14 one was from the train station and the 13:20 from our bus stop. UGH!!!!
Lesson learned and if nothing else, at least we got coffee!
Finally, about 13:47 we were in Martina Franca and from where we got dropped off, we had to walk about 10 minutes to the bus stop that would take us to Ostuni. Before heading there though, a quick lunch at the Grand Cafe and bus tickets purchased at El Tabaco Di D’Aria Donato, not far from the Ostuni bus stop.
The bus ride… we had such a giggle on this ride. It was sooo rough and the turns that the bus took was often quite bizarre. The hour felt like forever but we made it to Ostuni! Here we stayed two nights. This way we can relax a bit and also do a bit of laundry. This was the only apartment that we rented that had a washing machine. We were, Ellie especially, travelling light.
We took it easy in Ostuni. The weather had been cold and wet and I got sick the day after I got to Italy. While I did as much as I could, I did spend a lot of time at the apartment resting.
What to do in Ostuni?
Wander through the alleys of course! On a good day, walk pass the car park of of Via Salvatore Tommasi for a picturesque view of the city.
Before we know it though, it was time to move on again and this time, Lecce.
Since Lecce is on that main northern train line, it was easy to get from Ostuni to Lecce by train.
Like Fasano, Ostuni’s train station is a bit out of town and to get there you can either walk (3km or 45min walk) or take the bus. Ellie and I opted for the bus and by this time, we’ve gotten a hang of the public transport system! We saw a tabacchi next to the restaurant we had dinner at (Osteria Ostuni Bistrot linked above) and walked in there to buy tickets for the bus. I think it was about a €1. Then we asked the lady where the bus stop was and we walked over there to confirm – we went to the one next to the police station on Corso Vittorio Emanuele. All was good!
The next morning we left the apartment and found a cafe just around the corner from the bus stop, Bar Nephenta. A few minutes before our bus was scheduled to arrive, we walked to the stop.
We made it to the station as scheduled, bought our Lecce tickets and off we went.
Of all the towns and cities we visited, Lecce felt like the biggest of them all. Lecce just felt like a proper city while Bari still had an old town feel despite being the capital of Puglia.
What to do in Lecce?
We did a lot of wandering around this city and also a bit of eating and drinking. We found a few yummy restaurants and one of them you have to ring the doorbell to enter. So unique!
Lecce is supposed to be the Florence of the south. It does have a few museums and Roman ruins (which many you can view from outside) if you are into that. Ellie and I aren’t so into museums though and we rather wander around the city whilst sampling the local dishes and drinks.
Our trip is coming to and end and last but not least…
A sleepy port city. Still frequented by tourists but still quiet. The old town is cute but also very small.
From Lecce, Brindisi is easy to get to. You just hop on the train and go towards Bari. Lecce, despite being a decent size city, doesn’t have an airport. So those visiting the south of Brindisi would fly in and out of this city.
Ellie and I explored the old town that evening and then we went out for a lovely meal, our last meal together. Then early the next day she walked back to the train station and caught the bus to the airport. My flight didn’t leave until 8 pm and I spent most of my day cafe hopping.
Brindisi airport is about the same size as Bari, small and not busy. One wouldn’t need to arrive two hours before the scheduled departure time. Security wasn’t long and once you pass through, the gates will be right there. I spent my time on the free wi-fi with a cup of lovely coffee. Even at the airport one can find great tasting coffee. Love Italy this way!
Knowing what I know now, I would have most likely done this route: Bari, and a bus to Locorotondo, then bus to Martina Franca and then train to Ceglie Messapica, train to Lecce, train to Ostuni, train to Monopoli, train to Polignano A Mare and then back to Bari to catch the flight back. While it was a nice day to walk around Brindisi, this city didn’t really offer a lot to travellers like Ellie and myself. By going the above route, I would be taking advantage of the Bari to Lecce north route and Martina Franca to Lecce southern route train system. If there isn’t that railroad construction from Alberobello to Locorotondo, it would have been possible to train from Bari to Locorotondo.
Don’t get me wrong though, I loved that we had the experience we had because I am for sure smarter than I was before in navigating the Puglia public transport system and can share the info here with you.
Another reason why I would go back to Bari to fly back is because the flight back from Bari is earlier. I would have arrived at 18:00 ish. The flight from Brindisi got me to Frankfurt Main at around 23:15 and it was too late for me to catch the bus/train back home. My choices were to stay the night at one of the airport hotels (about €60-€100/night) or have somebody pick me up. Driving back wasn’t an option since the flight to Bari was from Frankfurt Hahn, an airport that’s about 50 min away from Frankfurt Main with no good public transport in between. By going back to Hahn, I could also have easily driven (much cheaper parking at Hahn and less complicated traffic wise).
Anyhow, hope this post can help you plan your Puglia trip. While a car can help you get to more remote areas easier, there is no reason to not visit Puglia if you either don’t have a license or don’t wish to drive in Italy!