Tag Archives: bus ticket

London Walking Tour

On my first official morning I opted to take part in a “free” walking tour of the “TV” “London”.  I will explain in further detail why quotes are around the three words in the previous sentence in a bit…

Upon first checking into the hostel they mentioned that there was a “free” walking tour that operated daily leaving the hostel at 10am.  They said that the tour covered central London, but that the main attractions (for example Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, etc) would not be covered, but that the tour would end so close to those areas that they would be easy enough to explore after the tour.

Ok, so here was a great example as to the incompetence of the staff (sadly) at the Generator hostel… First off, the “free” walking tour required a not-free train or bus ticket to get you to the meeting point (Green Park) from which the tour would actually begin.  Now, I’m not complaining about having to buy a train ticket, because as it turned out it came in quite handy for the rest of the day (I bought a day pass from the hostel for 9 pounds that allowed unlimited access to all buses and trains for the entire day, and after my day it was definitely worth its price!) I was just irritated that this little bit of important information wasn’t explained to me when the staff talked about the free walking tour.  Now, I’ve been told I’m too literal a person taking what people say quite literally and to that point I admit that I literally did think that the walking tour would be entirely that… walking.  So when the lady who came to pick up the people participating in the walking tour from the hostel (on foot I may add) we started walking out toward the next hostel where we were to pick up more people when she thankfully asked “do you have a train ticket?”.  My first question of course was “For what?  This is a walking tour, yes?”  To which she explained that we would need a train ticket to get to the meeting point.

So I turned around as she waited outside for me while I worked out the details and purchased the all day train pass.  I’m just saying, if the whole procedure for the “free” walking tour was explained to begin with then that little bit of confusion and wasted time would never had occurred… Oh, and one other little thing… Goes along with the incompetence of the staff at the Generator (who otherwise were very friendly) per their knowledge of this free walking tour that they at least informed people about… ok, so a few more points… #1 no one knew how long the tour would last #2 no one knew exactly what time it started (I was told 10am, at 10am asked where the tour met and was told -by the same person who told me 10am- that it met at 10:15… 10:15 rolled around and I was told once again by the same person, “oh they meet between 10:15 and 10:30… GRRRRR!!!!!) #3 the areas that they said would be covered on the tour in fact were NOT covered at all… I’m not complaining on this point again because the tour actually did cover all the areas I wanted to know more about, i.e. the “TV” areas of London (Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, etc).  All I’m saying again is that there was just a HUGE lack of knowledge from the staff at the Generator hostel about this tour.

Now, to the perhaps credit of the staff, the lady that picked me up from there on foot said that the regular staff were on vacation and that she’d never seen the ones that were there that morning before… so maybe the regular staff are more knowledgeable than the apparently new ones that were there… But I will never know for sure…

Ok, so I’m done venting about the frustrating start to the tour… The tour itself was in one word: brilliant!  The tour guide was funny, friendly and incredibly informative!  As I mentioned above we all met (turned out to be about 30 people in total from various hostels around London) at Green Park and from there began the two hour tour entirely on foot:)

Oh, I almost forgot… the above words in quotes!  So “Free” is in quotes above because as you guessed, the tour wasn’t “free”.  It required a train/bus ticket and a tip for the tour guide.  The guides aren’t paid by the organization that provides the free tours, so they only rely on tips.  “TV” is in quotes simply to mean that the areas covered were in fact the most popular tourist destinations in London, and “London” is in quotes because all the areas we went to (TV areas) are actually in Westminster… London, the REAL London is only one about square mile!!  The rest of what people consider to be London is Westminster.  That’s your first bit of info I got from the tour…

To make it a bit easier for reading perhaps, I’m going to break down each part of the tour and associated stories for each area into links below.  That way this page doesn’t drag on forever!  I’m not going to tell every story told during the tour (I’ve got to leave something out to make you all want to go to London and do the tour yourselves!!) but will give you my favorites.  Cheers and happy reading your free tour with accompanying pictures:)

The Palaces

Red Coats & Gentlemen’s Club

Trafalgar Square

Horse Garden/PM House/Westminster Abbey/Big Ben

Areas Not covered (Eye of London/Brick Lane/Piccadilly Circus)

 

Back to United Kingdom

 

On the road again…

Early the next morning we all headed out for the early boat back to Golfito.  From there we said our goodbyes and all headed in separate directions.  Since I was planning to travel to the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica, I thought it better to loop my way through Panama rather than to take the gruesome 8 hour or more bus ride back to San Jose, only to catch another 5 hour one to get to the Caribbean side.  So as the other guys all headed North, I made my way South to Paso Canoas: the Pacific border crossing into Panama.

Upon arriving at Paso Canoas, I will be the first to admit that I had no clue what to do or where to go!  There were no signs and absolutely no indication of where you were to go if you wanted to get into Panama.  Perhaps what was most shocking to me was that there was no gate or fenced area… Ok, perhaps I have just been too accustomed to the look of border crossings from my travels to Mexico to the States where there are huge signs and officers everywhere and lines of buses and people all waiting to get through.  This border crossing looked nothing like that.  In fact I kept thinking that you really had to want to do the right thing in order to get into Panama.  Otherwise, truth be told, had I known which bus I needed in Panama to get to David, Panama I could have simply walked across the invisible and non-guarded border and hoped on a bus.  But I digress…

I wandered around in the direction of Panama and finally came across some police officers and asked them what it was I was supposed to do.  They directed me to the immigration office on the Costa Rica side (no signs again) so I could get my exit stamp.  After several wrong stops to different offices, I finally found the correct one and stood in line to exit Costa Rica.  Of course as things would happen, the power went out so all the computers were down.  So I had no choice but to sit around and wait for things to come back online.  About a half hour later, people’s names were being called out one-by-one as the passports were being returned and I made my way to the Panama immigration office to get an entrance stamp.

Upon arriving there, I admit I was quite tired and honestly not firing on all cylinders.  And my tired frame of mind ended up costing me $20.00… You see, I had completely neglected to even think about how I would probably need proof that I was leaving Panama before entering it, just as I needed proof when entering Costa Rica that I would be leaving the country (though they never asked me for it).  So when the immigration officer asked if I had a bus ticket (he meant to prove that I was leaving Panama at some point) all I kept responding was “No, I am getting one to David once I cross the border”.  Try as he may to get me to understand where he was going with his line of inquiry, I failed to understand exactly what he was doing, so finally after about 5 minutes of his questioning (and me lacking to understand) he gave up and simply turned me away back to the Costa Rica side so I could purchase a bus ticket for $20 that showed a return ticket from San Jose, Costa Rica to David, Panama and back to San Jose.  Of course it wasn’t until after the purchase that I “got” what he information he was looking for and am completely convinced that if I had simply said “yes, I have a bus ticket back to Costa Rica… Would you like to see it??” that he would have said “no” he didn’t need to see it and would have stamped me through.  Instead I had to go and make life complicated for myself and apparently for him as well.

In any event, I trudged my way back to the Panama immigration office with my $20 ticket in hand and boarded a teeny air-conditioned bus (whoa!!!  civilization again!!) on my way to David.  About a half-hour later we were stopped at a police checkpoint.  And I chuckle every time I think of this moment because in the moment I kept thinking “man, it’s a good thing I crossed the border legally after all!!” but after the moment I thought “it wouldn’t have made a difference anyway” because the police officer boarded the bus, asked people to take out their identification, looked at 2 or 3 that were being held up in the air, glanced around the bus at people but not really looking at their faces and then exited…  LOL!!

On the way to David, new passengers came on board at various stops and one of them sat next to me.  He was a middle-aged gentleman who had a business and lived on the pacific coast of Panama.  We chit-chatted all the way to David and thankfully, he paid attention to the change given to me when departing the bus in David.  You see, in Costa Rica you either pay for a bus ticket before boarding the bus, or right as you get on.  In Panama, you simply board and pay according to which stop you get off at.  My bus fare was supposed to be $2.95 from Paso Canoas, but I only received $1.00 change when handing the drivers assistant a $10.00.  My bus companion noticed this (and since he knew I was coming from the border) and quickly stood up for me yelling at the assistant to give me the correct change at once.  How very nice of him it was indeed to do so!

So now I was in bustling David… wow… Where to begin…

On To Costa Rica vs Panama

Back to Costa Rica

Back to Panama