Category Archives: Independent Travel

The 4-Step Student Guide to Dublin Bus

BY MEGHAN NEELY, PROFESSIONAL WRITING’18, CHAMPLAIN COLLEGE

Dublin is a big city.

There’s a lot to do and see, and while most things are within walking Dublin Busdistance of Champlain Abroad’s Academic Center and student apartments, you might not always have the time or the energy to get places on your own two legs. Lucky for you, Dublin has some of the best public transportation systems in Ireland. And perhaps the most notable mode of travel among them is Dublin Bus.
Now, I know city buses don’t always have the best reputation. They tend to be crowded, sweaty tin cans that are never on time. And while these factors hold somewhat true for Dublin Bus and countless other bus services around the world, it’s not exactly an opportunity you can pass up. The buses are a way of life here in Dublin, and if you know how to get around everything else will just be a minor inconvenience. So, what exactly do you need to know?

 

1. Your Student Leap Card is Your Friend Student Leap Card

If you’re planning to travel via Dublin Bus, then one of the best investments you can make is a student Leap Card. These nifty little pieces of plastic will allow you to tap-on at any Dublin Bus stop with preloaded cash, freeing you from the hassle of calculating fare and counting exact change. What’s better is that you can also download the Leap Top-Up app to your smartphone, allowing you to add money to your card wherever you are. With a Leap Card, you can never be caught short. Continue reading

Exploring Iceland the student way

Exploring Iceland the student way

Champlain College student Greer Yoder gives Iceland two thumbs up

BY ZACH PAULSEN, PROFESSIONAL WRITING’17, champlain college

Planning Planning planning

Earlier in the month of November was our fall break. In lieu of Thanksgiving Break, students studying with Champlain Abroad Dublin in the fall semester are given a ten day long break during which to explore Europe, and you’d have been-pressed to find anybody who wasn’t. Personally, a group of four friends – fellow students Greer Yoder, Maggie Sergeff, Max Brisben and Reuben Kernan – and I explored Iceland for four days, and in doing so we learned a lot about what it takes to make trips on a larger scale like this work.

This has not been my first European trip. Earlier this year I visited England to see a friend, and before this year I had been to Europe on several occasions, but I cannot stress enough how easy it is to get complacent and assume that trips are all going to be flawless fairy tales that build themselves. This is one instance where I was admittedly caught off guard.

In my heart of hearts, I think I understood that Iceland was an extremely isolated place, and I would have to put in a lot of work, and play it smart, but I let my past three months in Europe get the better of me, and I went in without truly expecting any sort of issues to arise.

Needless to say, things weren’t as easy as I had expected, but we worked through it and in the end I came out with one of the best vacations of my life and a place that is 100% on my must-visit-again list.

Flights, wheels, a place to sleep and food to eat

Champlain Abroad student Max Brisben geared up and ready to go

Champlain Abroad student Max Brisben geared up and ready to go

The trip started out pretty well from the get-go. We arrived with ample time to the Dublin Airport, and spent a good hour before our flight relaxing and mentally preparing for the trip we were about to embark on. However, relaxing as it may have been, this is where we encountered our first issue.

When travelling to Iceland via Wow Air, expect policies to be different. Whereas Irish airlines Ryanair and Aer Lingus, and many American airlines, such as Delta or United are much less stringent when it comes to what constitutes a carry-on and a personal item, Icelandic airline, Wow Air is very strict in enforcing bag sizes. Make sure that even if you know your bags could fit in an overhead compartment or under a seat, they also fit within Wow Air’s measurements, because otherwise you will get hit with a baggage fee.

 

The very first time I set eyes on Iceland

The very first time I set eyes on Iceland

Having put this behind us, we stepped on to our plane and waited the longest two and a half hours of our lives until we touched down in Iceland. From the very beginning it was like we were in a different world. As I like to describe it, it was like a glacial Hawaii. Even with the rainy and cloudy weather, the landscape felt exotic and enticing.

One thing I recommend wholeheartedly comes with two different halves of advice. One: rent a car. If you are 20 you can rent a small sedan (a saloon in European terminology) from the rental company Sixt, and if you are 22 or over you can begin to rent bigger sedans, and 25 and up you can rent vans. It’s all doable. We rented an Opel Corsa to accommodate all five of us, and while it was a tight fit, we were able to make it work, and it allowed us to see so much more than we would have otherwise. In effect, the whole of the southwest coast was open to us and I cannot stress enough how much more amazing our trip was because of this. It is well worth the price, without a doubt.

And two: familiarize yourself with car rental policies, and be prepared to shell out a couple extra euro for various forms of insurance and a navigation system. Almost anywhere in the southwest coast can be reached by paved roads, but anywhere else will be gravel, so gravel insurance is an absolute must.

And the navigation system proved to be invaluable for us. It is solely responsible for our safe arrival to our Airbnb, and unless you have an existing knowledge of the Icelandic language, it is what would get you safely there too.

Our Airbnb cabin on Meðalfellsvatn

Our Airbnb cabin on Meðalfellsvatn

We rented a lakeside cabin as our accommodation, and opted to stay in the more remote – and I mean very remote – lake of Meðalfellsvatn. It’s about 45 minutes outside of the capital, and biggest city, Reykjavik, and is where many Icelanders have their summer homes, so needless to say during the winter season, it got a little bit spooky being the only people around for miles.

The house was incredible, though. And staying outside of Reykjavik is well worth it, as it becomes much more affordable. The house was our hub and the first day was spent going and getting dinner in the city. Tempting as it is, we could not do this often. Eating out in Iceland is outrageously expensive, so we also used this time to go grocery shopping. Cooking your own food is absolutely the way to go when travelling here.

Another warning about Icelandic cuisine: do not eat whale, no matter what people say, as it contributes to illegal and immoral whaling practices that still take place off of Iceland’s shores. The Icelandic government has even devoted a website to steering tourists away from restaurants that serve whale. Shark, too, is a shadier meal to eat. You’re not going to find shark fin soup, but shark dishes are another thing best avoided.

Given the little amount of daylight during the winter months, after this brief excursion we returned to the house for the night. Continue reading

Traveling Alone: From Nervous Novice to Poised Professional

By: Amanda Hollywood, ’17 // Public Relations

It’s coming down to the last few weeks of our semester abroad, meaning we’re all frantically trying to squeeze in as much traveling as we can and check a few more things off our bucket lists before finals hit. It’s an interesting time because by now we’ve all gotten pretty close and are accustomed to always having someone around. At the same time, with funds and time running out, we all have certain ‘Must Do’s in mind for ourselves- and those goals don’t always align with our friend’s. That is how I found myself booking a weekend on my own to the Dingle peninsula, the most western point in Ireland.

My roommates had all planned to go to Barcelona together, but I found myself less than eager to join them. I’m not a fan of hot weather- I call Burlington and Dublin home, after all!- I don’t speak Spanish, and I can’t spend more than five minutes in the sun without being burnt to a crisp. On the other hand, Dingle seemed to be calling my name, having grown up on the stories of the time my dad had spent there when he was my age. It was really hard to decide to go on my own rather than sticking with my friends, but I only had the money for about one more trip and I knew I had to see Dingle if I wanted to leave Ireland with no regrets.

So in true American fashion I set off for the West early on Friday morning, my roommates having already flown out to Barcelona the night before. It’s no easy task getting to Dingle: it took two trains and a bus, totaling about five hours travel, and I was worried about navigating so much transportation on my own. I booked my hostel before I started figuring out how to actually get there, and thank goodness I did or I might’ve backed out. It can be intimidating, navigating train stations and bus routes on your own, especially with no phone to easily look up any information needed on the spot. But the hostel was booked so I had to get there no matter what, and with some careful planning and navigation, I did.

The journey was totally worth it, by the way

The journey was totally worth it, by the way

I had stayed in hostels before on the Western Ireland trip which I was really thankful for, but even so, this was a new experience. I was in a mixed gender room with six beds, and I had been trying to reassure myself that just because it was labeled mixed and had six beds didn’t necessarily mean that six men and women would be there during my stay. However, when I walked into the room, it became quickly obvious that I was indeed getting the last bunk in a room full of men and women. That made me pretty nervous at first, and to make myself feel a little better, I ended up keeping my bag up on my bed with me when I slept at night. My hostel was definitely plenty secure, and I never felt that I was in any danger or a sketchy situation, but even so I was on my own and had to look out for myself. Little things like not leaving your phone out charging somewhere unattended or counting your money out in the open are just little actions that can help you feel more secure and guarded when you’re on your own. Continue reading

How wonderful it is to visit Howth!

Ireland myth #1: Rolling hills are everywhere.

Champlain Abroad Dublin‘s Academic Center and student apartments are located in the heart of Ireland’s biggest city! While Dublin is not exactly like New York or Boston, there is still quite a bit of hustle and bustle. With hustle and bustle comes public transportation and with public transportation comes adventures!

In just the short amount of time I’ve been here, I’ve discovered just how easy it is to get out of the city and into the scenic views Ireland is known for. (Ireland is dubbed the Emerald Isle after all) With 6 euros and a bit of time on your hands, you can hop on a train and explore a new village or town along the coastline. 

Map if Howth peninsula

Map of Howth peninsula

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I'm Flyin' Solo – Independent Travel

Liberating.
That’s the single best word to describe independent travel.
In planning my semester with Champlain Abroad, I decided that I wanted to take one solo weekend trip (to my mom’s initial disdain). And the more reading of independent female travel blogs that I did, the more the idea solidified in my mind and became not a want but a need. As long as I did my research and chose somewhere that would put everyone’s mind at ease in terms of safety, there wouldn’t be an issue.
I flip flopped between destinations; and when my first long weekend, still open, began approaching, I asked a professor for a recommendation on regions in Ireland to visit.
“The Dingle Peninsula,” He said, no hesitation in his reply. So came the studying of how to get there, what to do, where to stay and eat, and who needed cash over credit. Reflecting back on it, the process was long—five hours spent one Sunday afternoon, poring over my ninety open tabs and scrolling through articles furiously—but not as painstaking as I imagined it would be. Two days later, a trip for Dingle and Killarney was completely booked and the excitement to go was insurmountable.

Cycling Slea Head. A fantastic way of exploring what Independent Travel is all about.

Cycling Slea Head. A fantastic way of exploring what Independent Travel is all about.

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Being in Belgium: Tips of the Travel

Last month I took a trip out of Ireland and all the way to Belgium.  My friends and I had no plans or itinerary for when we arrived in Brussels Belgium.  We just wanted to explore and find our own way, and thats exactly what we did.  When we arrived at our hostel the first thing we did was ask “Where can we get waffles?!”, lets be honest that’s why anyone goes to Brussels right? So let me tell you what I did, what I recommend and what I don’t.

Exploring Brussels. Photo credit: Allie Hanson

Exploring Brussels. Photo credit: Allie Hanson

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Spring Break Abroad

Many people told me before I came to study with Champlain Abroad Dublin that Ireland can act as a gateway to the rest of Europe. We used it as just that, traversing across Austria and Germany for eight days during our Spring Break abroad.

We started our week in Salzburg. Traveling with my three roommates, we flew out of Dublin early Saturday morning and spent the whole day exploring Salzburg. We spent hours, taking in the city’s beautiful architecture and stunning mountain scenery.

Innsbruck

Innsbruck

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From Paris to Dublin, Learning from Experience

Studying abroad for me was a big step in the next chapter of my life at Champlain College and future career. I have always loved traveling and knew for a long time that study abroad would be a big part of my college experience. What I didn’t know when I decided to study abroad is how much it would change me as a person. Before I left to study in Paris last fall, I was full of magical daydreams of Paris and how I would travel the world in four months; clearly I had some slightly naïve and unrealistic expectations. Over the four months I lived in Paris, I become self sufficient, self-reliant, and by the end I realized I wasn’t the same naïve girl who had left the U.S. in August. Now, I’m in Dublin with Champlain Abroad and I’m glad I have developed the skills to feel more comfortable in a new city and at the same time am constantly learning new skills that are just as valuable.

Karisa Desjardins – Champlain College: A photo from my first week in Paris!

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Lessons from Oslo

A great deal of Champlain Abroad students go to Ireland because it is the so-called “gateway to Europe.” Dublin is a home-base, and now that you’ve already crossed the Atlantic, almost anywhere you’ve ever dreamed of visiting in Europe is a quick flight away. Cheap flights from airlines such as Ryanair make country-hopping affordable. One thing I believe many of us want to take away from study abroad is establishing ourselves as travel-savvy— able to breeze through the airport with a week’s worth of possessions tucked away neatly in a backpack, scoffing at the newbies frantically sorting through their luggage at security for a tube of toothpaste that exceeds the allotted volume.

View from the roof of the Oslo Opera House

View from the roof of the Oslo Opera House

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The Castles of Ireland

One of the things I was most excited about doing in my semester abroad in Dublin was taking in as much Irish/European history as I could. There is just such a magic in the subject here that delves so much farther back than anything the US has to offer. In particular, one of the key features I wanted to explore at length while here was castles.

From where we stepped off the bus

From where we stepped off the bus

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