Getting Around Gets Easier

In the days of the intrepid explorers, getting from point A to point B was a death-defying experience. And you had to be either very wealthy or be financed by royalty.

Think how far we’ve come in the past century, just with commercial flights, rental cars, subways, and air-conditioned buses. The staggering thing, though, is how far we’ve come in the past 20 years. My still-young wife traveled to Poland while in college. She had a visa applied for in advance, a currency exchange quota that amounted to more than she could spend, and trouble finding anyone who spoke even a few words of English. Hard for the summer backpackers in Krakow to imagine now I’m sure.

Twenty years ago, there were no scrappy airlines like Southwest, JetBlue, RyanAir, and EasyJet. I just got a flight from my home town to New Orleans for $106, during Jazzfest no less. In 1984 dollars that’s what–$20?

And ten years ago, the Internet was just getting started. Remember the days before instant information access, instant price shopping, and worldwide travel message boards?

It’s easy to forget that progress comes one change at a time though. Here are a few new developments that are making it easier for international travelers to get around.

Direct Bus Service from Thailand to Laos
Starting in April, travelers can take a bus directly from Thailand to the Laos capital of Vientiane, and vice-versa. The 80-km trip from Udon Thani will set you back about $2. Details here:

Direct Flights to Vietnam
Through a variety of code-sharing agreements, travelers will soon be able to fly directly to Vietnam from Paris, Frankfurt, and a variety of US cities.

Goa-Mumbai Catamaran Service
Travelers to Goa from Bombay/Mumbai now have a pleasant alternative: an 8-hour trip by catamaran. It’s not cheap by Indian standards (around US$42 economy, $55 first class), but I’d plop that money down in a heartbeat to avoid the bus trip.

Venice-Istria Ferry Service
Fancy a trip to newly-hopping Croatia? You can now take a catamaran directly from Venice, Italy during the warm months. For a zillion ways to get to and around Croatia, click here.

Cheaper Eurail Passes
For US visitors, a European rail pass is cheaper this year, despite the big fall in the dollar. (Almost makes up for those $15 lunches you’ll be having in Paris.) For a rundown on what’s a relative bargain and what’s not, see this column.

Now get outta town!

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