The guide book mentioned that tram tickets will be available at the hotel reception. The reception staff said they would be available at the convenience store near the tram stop and the lady at the convenience store said NO when we asked her for the ticket.
Public transport is a cheap way of sightseeing in Europe but sometimes it can be puzzling and more often than not the systems in place and language barrier make it so.
If you have seen Prague, you have seen Europe proclaims the visit Prague advert. Yet, after 10 countries, we now know that each one is different. The more you try comparing, the more you see the difference and the more difference you search for, more the similarities you find.
The first puzzling part was reading the validity of tickets. A certain rate for 20 mins, another for an hour and a third for the entire day. Now how does one know how long will it take to traverse the distance? 20 mins, 1 hour or the whole day? And what happens if you are stuck in traffic and a scheduled ride of 18 mins becomes a ride of more than 20?
Prague is reminiscent of its soviet past. Block development, architecture, trams and railways remind you of the soviet era. How do we tackle the rules, whom do we ask? We made a plan – to take a 20 min ticket and get down at a stop just before we cross the time limit and come back in the reverse direction by purchasing a new ticket. Ticket at convenience store, ticket validation inside the tram and then the ride starts, we knew what we were getting into.
Prague is divided into multiple districts and are numbered (another soviet legacy) from one to ten. Prague 1 (Praha 1) is the city centre and that is where we headed to buy a ticket. Tram stop spotted, convenience store spotted and we were all set.
Pointing two fingers for two tickets, money in hand and the other hand pointing towards the tram stop – I asked the old lady manning the counter for two tickets, only to hear a stern NO. Puzzled we requested again. Travels have always taught us that if the whole sentence is difficult stick to words.
Tram Two tickets 20 minutes.
But these four words also did not do the trick. The NO was equally stern.
TW (The Wife) pulled me away before I could hear a third stern NO. Besides I couldn’t further shorten my request from Tram Two tickets 20 minutes
What next? We like observing people and that is exactly what we did. We kept observing the old lady at the stall until some locals came, spoke, took some tickets and headed to the tram stop. Well, the observation became frustrating and we went around checking if there is a ticket vending machine and when we found none, we went back to the hotel – exactly the same way we had come to Praha1 from hotel. WALKING.
We thought we had got around this problem after using public transport across few other countries until we landed in Jakarta in 2016. Asia is easy.
We are HOHO (Hop On Hop Off) people and make it a point to take the ride in every city where the HoHo operates. It’s a great way of getting acquainted to the city. Our joy knew no bounds when we read that Jakarta HOHO is the cheapest in the world, because it is free for tourists.
With all the information handy, HOHO map picked up at the airport, we were ready for the ride and made our way to the prominent stop in Central Jakarta. The soldiers / police on duty guided us to the bus stop and we waited in the sweltering heat of Jakarta for the FREE HOHO. And a bus came, exactly the one which we wanted to go to south Jakarta and drop us back near the northern part where we were staying. As we rushed to the double decker bus with passports to show in case they couldn’t figure out by our attire and looks that we were tourists.
We were greeted by a lady conductor who came out of the bus and was looking at passengers.
A group of 3 went in, then a couple, then a group of 4 went in and then we showed the map and asked if this is the route? The lady promptly said NO. We thought it was a NO for the route and this bus for another route, which we did not mind considering we were ok to travel any part of the city and explore. But the lady went in, doors closed and the NO looked very familiar to the one in Prague. We were left there; with the weather now feeling dreary; still wondering what exactly went wrong. This time we did not even have the time to cut the sentences down to words!
I made another trip to Jakarta for work and I made it a point to learn as much Bahasa to get a free ride on the bus and I did get that ride traveling 35 minutes in direction opposite to where I was staying – just for the heck of it!
These two experiences have been complimented with a superb experience where the locals helped us with calling card usage by noticing henna on my wife’s hand and you will read more about it sometime soon when we write – When henna on hand helped us call home.