- Travel and Places
Lockers Are A Challenge In Europe!
Ah, the wonders of the Internet! It's pretty easy to plan the perfect European holiday, isn't it? You book your tickets. You make your hotel reservations. If you have a train pass, you could even arrange for compulsory reservations in advance, as long as you're willing to pay extra. By the time you step into Europe, all that's left is for you to enjoy yourself. You could then do it leisurely. Or embark on one of those fourteen countries in one fortnight whirlwind trips. Everything is well laid out for you.
Not exactly. Because of lockers. Unless you're with a tour group, chances are that on some days, you would need temporary storage for your baggies. Most hotels do allow you to keep your bags with them for a while after check-out, but there would be situations in which you simply cannot afford the time to trek back to the hotel for collection, or that there's no hotel to keep your bags with to begin with. In these situations, you need to rely on lockers. Typically the ones at train or bus stations. Europe has plenty of these, even the less developed nations. Problem though, Europe also has tens of thousands of other tourists competing with you for lockers. This, together with a number of technical issues, might result in you being lockered out. That situation of not being able to sight see anywhere, because you are encumbered with your bags.
1. Locked out
As in literally. Yeah, transport hubs like Munich HBF or Amsterdam Centraal might have plenty of lockers, but it doesn't mean that there would be always be unused ones available. It's like, you think you're the ONLY tourist? You think you're the ONLY one needing storage? What about the locals? What about those coming to the city for day work?
That's the situation I learned painfully at some European train stations. Finding an empty, functional locker at peak hours could be the most challenging adventure of the day. Gets downright harrowing too if you have active competition. Picture this, an enclosed room, five groups of tourists waiting, staring, GLARING. The moment something opens up, it's a bloodthirsty scramble. Not a pleasant vacation experience. Trust me.
And oh, if you're thinking of going early, remember that others might do so too. Early would be something like, pre-dawn.
2. Cashed Out
So you found a locker. Hurrah! You stuff your bags in. You meticulously arrange your most fragile and precious to avoid damage. You dig into your pockets, and you discover ... ...
You don't have the right coins. You have only one gaudy 5 Euro coin. The bloody system takes only 1 Euros.
And there's no coin machine in sight! Everybody around you quickly glances away to discourage you from begging. You feel like a pariah.
OR, the machine doesn't accept coins at all, such as those in The Netherlands. It needs a credit card, the magnetic chip type, with a PIN. Either you don't have the right card, or for whatever reason you do not know your PIN, there is no way for you to activate the lock. And of course nobody, in the right mind, is going to pay for you with their cards.
Emptying time. Go buy a coffee or something to get the right change. Hopefully the locker you found is still available later.
3. Sized Out
Never happened to me before, but I've seen the tragedies. For the obvious reason of space limitation, the largest lockers are always the fewest. So if you lugging around a 29 inch, good luck finding a locker for it. And nope. However hard you shove, if it doesn't fit, it doesn't fit. Push hard enough, you end up damaging the locker. That might just send a hysterical guard scooting towards you.
In fact, most smaller cities don't even have medium-size lockers. You'd be lucky finding something for a 24 inch. Your only solution would then be to empty your suitcase and split the items into two or more lockers. But oh, that doesn't solve the original problem of the suitcase itself, right? Hmm ... ...
4. Budgeted Out
Who needs lockers?!?! We go for the human touch! Yes, left luggage services. The solution for any luggage size, and most modes of payment.
They exist. Many major European transport hubs have them. The service is immaculate too. You go through security, you get a tag or receipt, you pay only when you collect. Your problems are literally lifted from you. It is a breeze, as comfortable as a high-speed Eurostar ride. For a substantial price, that is.
Consider this. At London's Victoria Station, it is £6 per bag for 3 hours. £11 for 24 hours. (Prices obtained from Visit London) At Berlin Hbf, "Gepack" service is €5 per item. (Price obtained from The Man in Seat 61) Note that a lot of such facilities aren't opened all night too. So no partying and hopping back to the station to catch an overnight train. You'd be cursing at shutters.
To be fair, maybe it's not that expensive, except in the United Kingdom. Most lockers cost €3 - €5 anyway. But if you are using this service daily, and you have more than one bag, and you're traveling for a few weeks, wow, that adds up, doesn't it? Quite of bit of money you could otherwise be splurging on meals, souvenirs, and sightseeing.
To prevent such unpleasant locker situations ...
The golden rules apply.
- Travel light. Always travel light.
- Travel small i.e. split your things into smaller bags.
- Prevent the problem with sensible travel planning. Schedule your itinerary and transportation to avoid the situation of needing a locker to store your bags for a few hours.
Pretty much just common sense. (Which I didn't have in my first European visit)
Searching for information on the Net helps tremendously. There are plenty of information about lockers online, particularly in travel forums like TripAdvisor. Take note though, things could change overnight. For example, you'd never know whether the storage area is under renovation. Always check the date of writing when reading such information.