Nation of Trainspotters

As the son of a railwayman I have always been interested in trains.

In Japan the enthusiasm for trains is at a whole new level.

There are conventional trainspotters taking photographs and recording numbers called Tori-tetsu (tori means to take, and tetsu means train)

Sharyo-tetsu are fans of train design, who love this one of a kind train in the photo above. (It is modified to be a tribute to Neon Genesis Evangelion, an Anime TV series)

Nori-tetsu are people who enjoy travelling on trains. . . . . I’m a supporter of that club!

If you like reading timetables and planning imaginary rail journeys you are a Yomi-tetsu.

Oto-tetsu, are those who record the sound of trains.

People who study aspects of stations are called Eki-tetsu. . . . for instance I have heard of one man who can identify hundreds of stations just by hearing a recording of the announcement chime.

If you like bento boxes you could be a Ekiben-tetsu, who try out the bento lunch boxes of local delicacies sold at stations.

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Car Rental Insurance Excess

You arrange to rent a car for your holiday for around $40/day; when you get there they want to charge you another $30/day to remove a $4,000 excess in case you have an accident.

So should you pay?

My travel hack answer is NO! . . . . . and here are two reasons why I haven’t paid.

Self Insure

Well $30 a day would work out at $10,950/year . . . . When I put it like that would you really pay that amount to cover a risk of a $4,000 excess?

About the year 2000 I decided that as I drive regularly and reckon I only have an insurance claim less than every ten years I would take the risk for the 30 days a year I rent a car.

After ten years I estimated I saved $9,000, and even if I had been in an accident and paid an excess I would still have saved $5,000.

Travel Insurance

If you have travel insurance you will probably find it covers car rental excess.

Here is what my year round travel policy says:

RENTAL VEHICLE INSURANCE EXCESS. The cover under this section begins when you leave your home in Australia to start your trip and ends when you return to your home in Australia or when the period of insurance ends, whichever happens first.

We will cover you for the rental vehicle insurance excess, or the cost of repairing the rental vehicle, whichever is lower, if

(a) you rent a rental vehicle from a rental company; and

(b it is damaged by accident, storm, fire or theft; and

(c) you are a nominated driver on the rental vehicle agreement.

This is a premium credit card insurance which covers me for car hire both around Australia and for overseas travel. . . . . Check you insurance policy or credit card policy for details of your cover.

Few Bargains at Duty Free

Now with many countries having Goods and Services Tax (GST)
or the similar Value Added Tax (VAT) the tax saving advantage of Duty Free on most goods is only 10-15%.

When you buy at airport shops you may be avoiding duty (including sales taxes) but the rents at these stores are astronomic.

The owners reflect the higher rent, and empoying people 24hours by increasing prices

What Is Cheaper?

Generally anything that has extra taxes if you buy outside the airport.

I find spirits and Liqueurs are about 1/3rd cheaper , typically you get a 1 litre bottle for the same cost as a 0.75 litre bottle at my local supermarket.

With wine there may be a little saving, but without comparative pricing you won’t know.

For the smokers tobacco products give a similar saving to spirits.

What’s Not Cheaper

I haven’t bought my wife duty free perfume for 15 years after I found I could have saved about 40% by buying it at the local discount chemist.

I would expect the same would apply to after shave and most cosmetics.

Chocolates and small gifts will be more expensive.

Electrical goods can often be bought at a local discount store at similar prices and if you have any problems warranty claims are much easier to manage.

Before you buy overseas remember that appliances bought in different countries may not be right for your local power.

Tourist Refund Schemes

The last laptop I bought was from an Australian store just before we went overseas. I presented the laptop and the receipt on my way out and got a refund of 15% which I was very happy with.

Other countries may have similar schemes, although not as easy as Australia’s.

My Travel Hacks

  • Plan to buy Liqueur, in my case Kahlua.
  • Use the Tourist Refund Scheme
  • Know my local prices for anything else.

Bad Facebook Posts

Tigers Nest Bhutan

Do you sometimes get a little bit jealous when your friends go to all those exotic places, like Bhutan, and then rub it in with lots of photographs on Facebook.

Well I have an antidote to that because I make a point of posting bad holiday photographs on facebook.

Most people would post the above photo on their facebook page.

I chose this photo of me, in front of the same view, but with everything hidden by cloud.

Other subjects have been stuck in traffic in Kuala Lumpur, and Venice in the pouring rain.

I must admit I do feel slightly disappointed now if I don’t get one crap facebook post for every holiday.

Buffalo, New York State

My # 1 Under-Rated Destination

Hotel Lafayette

Back in 2017 we went on an eleven week world tour for our 40th wedding Anniversary, and one of our stops was Buffalo.

Most Americans we talked to said “WTF are you going there?”

I must admit we originally only considered Buffalo as a destination because it had an Airport close to Niagara Falls.

When we checked into the Hotel Lafayette and saw the Art Deco lobby, including the Elevators, we started to think there was more to this town than we first thought!

Martin House Complex

Martin House, Buffalo

Frank Lloyd Wright is probably the most iconic American Architect and I am a big fan, so when we found that one of his major houses could be seen that became a second reason to visit.

When we got there we found it’s actually the main house plus two smaller houses.

A local restoration society looks after the Martin House complex and runs regular informative tours.

Naval and Military Park

At Canalside there is an impressive museum.

You can look over three WW2 vessels; A cruiser, destroyer, and a submarine.

In the museum building I was also interested to find a model of USS Wolverine one of only two Fresh Water Paddle Steamer Aircraft Carriers.

You can also take a pleasant boat tour from Canal Side, which takes you along the canal, and around the only Marina that is shaped like a Buffalo (Don’t believe me then search Google Maps for ‘Erie Basin Marina’)

Some Things We Missed

Buffalo City Hall

It was only as we were in the Taxi on the way back to the airport we were told not only could we visit this impressive city hall; we could get a free lift to an observation deck on the top floor.

Exploring the many other Art Deco Buildings in the city

Visiting the Anchor Bar, where the world famous Buffalo Wings were invented in 1964.

Take Different Shirts

Last year I was on a 19 day highlights of China group tour.

One of the men on the tour wore the same kind of blue lightweight shirt every single day!

I hope he had brought a few different shirts and changed shirts every night . . . . . but I wasn’t going to stand next to him to find out.

I usually travel fairly light so I only have a few shirts and wash after each days wear, but they are all different so it is obvious I am changing shirts daily.

What has a fellow traveller done that you thought odd?