Travel tips: Sardinia
I suck at planning a travel itinerary. I’m the kind of person who jumps on a plane, bus or train to go to a place that fancy without even a map at hand. This spur-of-the-moment trips usually cost me time, money and effort, which can be frustrating sometimes. But that’s the joy of travelling solo, the adventure and the unexpected fun that results from such mistakes. And you’d think I’ve learned my lesson? Not really.
My latest travel blunder was during my latest trip in Sardinia.
It was a business trip for most part but I have days free in between. So I thought that some train and bus travels would not affect my business objectives. But since my understanding of geography is very poor, I underestimated the size of Sardinia and ended up spending most of my time on the road and was changing hotels everyday. I was travelling on a very tight budget and every mistake cost me my own money. But don’t get me wrong, Sardinia still took my breath away and I am already planning to come back. And besides, who minds waiting when there’s a bar in every train station.
But I’ve learned some pretty hard lessons about this island which you might find helpful when you are a similar trip.
1. If your main destination is not Alghero, don’t fly Ryanair. Or better rent a car.
Ryanair is the cheapest flight you can get to Sardinia from the Netherlands. My return flight only cost €137 return and the departure times were very good (Eindhoven- Alghero 16:20 and Alghero-Eindhoven 14:55). But if your main destination is not Alghero or the neighbouring provinces, better not take this flight.
Sardinia’s capital is Cagliari and it is a good 6 hours by train from Alghero. That is not including waiting time at train and bus stations. From Alghero, you still need to take a bus to take you to the train station which is not near the center. The old train to Sassari goes hourly and from Sassari, you can take the train to Cagliari which also leaves every hour or two when you travel in the afternoon. Waiting time can bore you to death. (See #3)
Cagliari is near to most main attractions and has it own airport, Elmas Airport. It might cost you a bit more to fly directly there but it will be better than travelling by train. There’s also a direct bus from Alghero-Cagliari, but you need to wait three hours to catch the next bus, which only goes twice a day to Cagliari. On the other hand, you can use those three hours to roam around the town center of Alghero where they have a very nice church and lively boardwalk. Observing the locals while sipping Mojito and watching the sunset is a must.
You can find more information at http://www.algheroairport.com
2. If you want wifi connection, make sure the hotel “really” provides it.
Most middle class hotels do not offer free wifi in their rooms so if you are a blogger or you want to keep everybody updated every single hour, it will cost you a lot of money to be online. If you don’t want to pay, you have to deal with the inconvenience of surfing the Internet on public areas of the hotel, mostly the lobby. Some hotels does not even have wifi, only wired internet so when booking one, and wanting a seamless, convenient Internet connection, check carefully if your hotel provides it.
I stayed in three hotels which gave me this big inconvenience and even had a spat with one receptionist because I thought she was lying to me. I just didn’t read my booking conditions well. (Hey, I said sorry.)
3. Train travel can take one whole day. Bring a book. Or drink your boredom away
Most trains go by the hour and sometimes only four times a day. You can imagine the waiting time in between travel, especially if you are changing trains. A book or a magazine would be handy but if you get bored with reading, you can always go to the train station’s bar and order a glass of whiskey or Prosecco. If drinking does not appeal to you, maybe casino does. They have at least one slot machine in every bar, even a casino room on some, to mend all sorts of boredom.
4. Sardinia has siesta.
And you already knows what it means. Everything stops from about 1pm-4pm and the locals retreat to their houses to rest after a nice, full lunch. Don’t be surprised if you can’t find an open shop during these hours. Don’t worry, they open again from 4pm or as late as 7pm. The temperature can be forgiving in the afternoon, especially in the summer, so I suggest do what the locals does, just chill in your hotel room and enjoy its view. Or swim if it has a swimming pool. Otherwise, spend your afternoon driving from one province to the other (I recommend the highway from Sassari to Cagliari) where the view is breathtaking. You can even make a short stop to hidden beaches or charming little towns. Or you can always sun bathe on the beach, if you don’t mind having skin damage from your vacation.
5. Don’t forget to stamp your tickets. And buy a day pass or 12-day ticket.
If going by public transport such as bus and trains, don’t forget to stamp your ticket. And well, I am not just talking about Sardinia but the whole Italy. I once got a €50 fine for not stamping my tickets. You can stamp them on those yellow machines near the platforms. Sometimes train tickets need to be stamped on board but make sure when.
It will also be more economical and convenient to buy a day pass or 12-day ticket if you are staying there longer. Bus tickets cannot be bought on board, only on bigletterie’s which cannot be found in so many places. It will be very embarrassing to get caught without a bus ticket or be thrown out. More info here http://www.go-sardinia.com
6. If your cab/bus driver drives like a madman, just relax. They know what they’re doing.
It might generally be Italian but only in Sardinia did I experience such fast cars. They drive like madmen there but ironically, they also drive very carefully. If you experience this, don’t freak out. It’s really safe. Only that, you wouldn’t be able to enjoy the scenery so much.
Sardinia has been my most challenging solo trip so far. But I’m glad I overcome it…