Leaving Ed, Sarah, and George in Toronto was bittersweet, but it was time to move on. I knew that the next 24 hours was going to be a brutal transit to Budapest, my next stop. We start off with a 5 hour flight to Reykjavik, Iceland (Bravo, one of the best airlines out there flying from NA to Europe), 2.5 hour flight to London, 9 hour layover, then a 3 hour flight to Budapest. I could do this. I’ve been through worse. But alas, betrayal by Google Maps in London, and then again in Budapest.
I landed in London-Gatwick and by the time I cleared immigration, I had 6 hours before I had to check in at London-Heathrow. I though, why not take a cheap jaunt to the city to walk around, rather than rot away in another airport. Not know how the intricate transit system worked, the worker there suggested I purchase a 6-zone day pass for £16 (ouch, that’s about $25CAD!) He assured me that this would last the whole day and would be valid to Heathrow.
In the actual city center, I had roughly one hour to walk around and in that time i came across 2 different protests going on. One for women’s advocacy, and the other for pension payouts. It seems we are all dealing with the same things eh? When it came time to head back to Heathrow, Google Maps gave me a route which I followed to the tee. No the London transit system takes some getting used to but in the end I did make it to my last train. However, it failed to tell me that it would cost an addtional £22.5 for the Heathrow Express. By then it was too late, so I essentially spent £39 on public transit that day. Not cool. By comparison, in Toronto, the app would note if additional fare was required for a given leg.
In Budapest, it was a different story. I had confirmed my friend Jorel’s address the night before (good!). When I copied the address in again to bus there (gotta save after London), it gave me a different route than I had previously. I thought maybe the metro stopped running so I would have to bus there. Long story short, Google Maps sent me to a suburb with the same address, and I had to spend 5000HUF for a pickup. So much for saving money…Again, to compare, if there are two listings with the same address, usually the app will ask “do you mean A or B”. No such luck this time, just freezing my butt off in a Hungarian suburb waiting for my taxi.
I guess the lesson learned here is to never assume that public transit is structured the same way as it is back in your home country. If you’re too lazy to read up on it (I was), ask a friend who has been to give you a quick run down. Ask for money traps and tourist mistakes. My friend Jordy lived with his wife in London for 6 months and he said that the Heathrow Express was a rip, and that the public lines would take you there in 10-15 more minutes. I’m not sure what I could have done differently for Budapest, but it doesn’t hurt to confirm and reconfirm addresses before committing to a one hour commute. At the end of the day, if your problem can be solved by throwing money at it, it isn’t worth sweating about.