A few things I have learned this year from taking Public Transportation....
- If you help a little old Italian lady with her bag on an Italian train, she WILL talk to you for the rest of the 5 hour train ride and you will not be able to study for your exam. BUT she will flatter you by complementing your Italian (even telling you that she thought at first that you were actually Italian...) and she'll tell you fun stories about her life in Liguria and how much Milano sucks.
- Sometimes you just have to rely on the kindness of strangers. Getting on a train with your life packed into a giant luggage? This is not physically possible. But someone will help you, usually a man, and he will usually do it without even you having to ask. When I took a train with all my stuff from Bologna to Rome, I showed up at the train station knowing that if no one would help me, I'd never get my stuff on that train.
- Bring snacks. Always bring snacks.
- The snack cart on Italian trains will run you over if you're in the aisle. (And "snack cart pusher" is one of the worst jobs I can imagine doing...)
- Just because you have an assigned seat on an Italian train, doesn't mean you'll get to sit there. Get over it.
- Pick and chose when you pay for bus tickets in Bologna. At night and on Sundays, don't bother paying. But on the weekdays on the buses that go to the train station, you better do it. I got checked 3 times in 1 month, and 1 time the ticket checker guy completely took me by surprise by sneaking up behind me dressed as a civilian (luckily I had paid)
- There are the same weird smelly people on buses in every country. But they can be fun to watch. But don't let them see you're watching them cause it can lead to awkward situations.
- White girl on the mini-bus in South Africa? Foreigner Alert!
- White girl on the 3rd class train in Cape Town? Again.... Foreigner Alert!