Miscellaneous tips and traps re traveling Portugal and Spain via Airbnb and trains:
- The US has laws about how hot tap water can be. Apparently the EU has not–the hot water everywhere, from the modern apartments to the 300 year old house, was extremely, shockingly hot. And, so, ALWAYS find out how to use the shower while you have the host there. We had both annoying and one scary experience with setting the shower temperature (this was a mysteriously designed two level shower, and in the process of turning it off I got shot with hot scalding water at my groin–no harm but yikes). And ask if you can run any water in the edifice, e.g. to get a drink or flush a toilet, while a person is in the shower.
- Do not expect WiFi on trains–there was none on the high speed train Barcelona to Sevilla; if there is WiFi it will be quirky. However we did have electricity so have your converter handy, not buried in your bag.
- Drink the house wine! It was uniformly good, and often seemed especially good as food wines. Funny aside–in Spain the server would ask in response to a request for a glass of vino tinto or vino blanco, “Dry or sweet? Old or young?” Never was I asked by varietal, nor were wine lists organized by varietal. Made it fun and different, and I didn’t have a bad glass the entire three weeks.
- If you travel without data service on your cell devices (we do because we are cheap and you can manage without it) and therefore are dependent on the connectivity you have in your abode, remember to download offline GPS-enabled maps (many that are on Maplets, Google, special apps) for when you are out and about. You cannot get the step-by-step or breadcrumb directions with just GPS, but you have a totally usable map to find your way. And it’s good practice to not be blindly following step by step instructions or maps. Look around you and get your head out of your phone!
- Book trains in advance to save significant money.
- Whenever possible go online for event or museum tickets. Don’t be daunted by the “must be printed out on paper” warnings…these seem to be obsolete. The difference between having a ticket you bought the night before and buying one onsite is about a 30-person line, and that was off-season.
- Do get the audio tours in places of interest and museums. Worth the money every time.
- If you are traveling by train, DO NOT HESITATE to get on as soon as the doors open. They are not waiting for anyone or anything. Pay attention to the car number and find it as soon as you can. Ask a conductor if you’re not sure which direction to head–at least then an official knows you are getting on. But be quick about it! We also noticed that the indication on your ticket as to seat number is often labeled mysteriously (e.g., one ticket had “Plaza” as the field label for seat number).