Overcrowded Venice may ban day-trippers

There’s no question that Venice is a city overrun with tourists. 20 million people visit the sinking city each year, yet only 60,000 Italians call Venice home. It’s no wonder then that the city starts to feel more like an open-air museum, a well-preserved relic of the past, rather than a living, and lived-in, city.

The residents of Venice put up with a lot (though or course, many of them profit greatly from the massive tourism industry too), and many are fed up with the overwhelming crush of tourists that descend on the town each year. And they aren’t above fighting back. Last year, the city created a (short-lived) locals-only vaporetto line from the Grand Canal to Piazza San Marco. Technically, anyone with a 3-year Carta Venezia pass could ride, but at 40 Euros each, most visitors wouldn’t buy one.

The latest tactic in the battle of locals vs. tourists is to ban day-trippers. Only about 30% of Venice’s annual visitors stay there overnight. The rest stay outside the city, stop by on their way to or from other destinations, or come for the day by cruise ship. The proposal would limit visitors to the city to those people who have a pre-booked hotel reservation.

Enrico Mingardi, the head of public transportation in Venice, is the mastermind of the proposal. He says that Venetians can “no longer tolerate the discomforts” caused by the influx of thousands of tourists each day. He didn’t say exactly how the system would work, what rules would apply to cruise ship visitors, and if those without proof of hotel reservations would be locked out of the city.

Proposals that would limit the number of Venice’s tourists have been brought up before, but always defeated. If the policy does take effect, I have a feeling Venice will feel even more like a historical theme park. What’s next – turnstiles and a ticket window?

Getting on a train in China: Worse than sardines in a can

I’ve been on crowded trains and buses–the type of experience where people have to adjust a shoulder, move a hip, perhaps reach up to hold onto a hand hold because there is actually no more room for another arm between all the bodies, but nothing like this. This footage was taken somewhere in China. I traveled on a train in China, but thankfully, it wasn’t like this.

Can you imagine? I wonder when the door opens at the first stop if everyone will explode back out again? How can the people in the middle of the crowd shoved inside the train cars ever hope to breathe fresh air? See the sun?

**Correction. Okay, okay, okay. As pointed out, this is not China, but Japan. See comment threads. The YouTube video was labeled China.

The best time to visit amusement parks

Amusement parks are great fun — except for the heat, the crowds, the noisy kids running wild, and the cost of admission. We’re doing what we can to help you with the ticket prices, and we’ll tell you how we avoid all those other problems, too.

Most amusement parks in the US operate on about the same schedule as your community swimming pool: closed in the winter, open with shorter hours on some weekends in the non-summer months, and then open all day, every day in the summer — and that’s when most people visit. They’ve got more free time, and the park is open longer hours, so you get more enjoyment — or do you?

When you visit an amusement park during its peak season, think about all the time you spend waiting in line. For the best roller coasters and the newest rides, you’re often stuck waiting in line over an hour for just a three-minute ride.

Try visiting instead sometime at the very beginning or end of the park’s season. Most kids are in school by then, so even on weekends the crowds will be much smaller. The heat won’t be so killer, and the lines will be so much shorter that even if the park is only open for six hours, you’ll probably get more rides in than if you’d spent a whole day there in July. And tickets are almost always cheaper, too. The end of the summer is not the time to stop thinking about amusement park getaways. Actually, it’s the perfect time to start thinking about them.