Brussels: Dumb travel mistakes we made (so you don't have to)
Updated: Jan 17, 2022
Traveling is fraught with the unexpected, and we've made our share of travel blunders. We've decided to regularly share these mistakes so you don't have to suffer the inconveniences (and costs) of our really dumb, avoidable travel mishaps.
We'll start in Brussels...
We took the train from Paris to Brussels to spend a few days eating chocolate and mussels before flying to Prague. When it was time to leave the small, lovely city of Brussels, the European Union's de facto capital, we couldn't wait to get to the Czech Republic. We had an evening flight and around 6:00PM we jumped in a cab
and asked the driver to take us to the airport, s'il vous plait. He responded with something that sounded like, "Blah, blah, blah (in French), aéroport?" Joe and I looked at each other and answered, "Oui!"
After an uneventful ride to the airport, we entered the terminal and went right to the Departures board to find our flight. And this is where things got weird. Yes, there was a flight to Prague, but it departed 30 minutes after our flight was scheduled to leave. Hmmm. And...it was on a different airline.
We puzzled this for a little while because it seemed like that should be our flight - it was almost the right time, but the wrong airline thing threw us for a loop - maybe they shared passengers? Our exact flight wasn't anywhere to be found on the board, so we decided to find someone to help us figure out this odd situation.
This meant trying to explain our unique predicament in French, but thankfully we finally made it understood what we were trying to figure out and the helpful person gave us an answer. Apparently our flight wasn't on the board because it didn't exist. And, apparently, Brussels has two airports.
Now, in any other large city we probably wouldn't have assumed that, when we jumped in a cab to the airport, the driver knows where to take us. Lots of large cities have two airports (like Gatwick and Heathrow for London, Orly and Charles de Gaulle for Paris). But this was Brussels! How could a city with only 175k people have TWO airports? But it does - Brussels Airport (BRU) and Brussels South Charleroi Airport (CRL). Good to know...before you end up at the wrong one.
At this point there was no way we could make it to the right airport to catch our flight. So, either we could cancel the Prague portion of our trip (which was not an option, as we were flying back to the US from the Czech Republic) or we could try to catch a flight the next day on the airline we'd originally booked with from the correct airport, which would mean cutting our time in Prague short, something neither of us wanted to do. Then, of course, there was the other option: we could see if we could get on the flight we'd originally seen on the Departures board. So that's what we did - we bought the last two seats on the flight leaving for Prague in an hour.
It was a costly and stress-inducing way to learn a very valuable lesson from a mistake that we will never make again: ALWAYS know how many airports you have to choose from, and ALWAYS make sure you use the name of the airport you want to go to when hailing a cab.
We ended up arriving in Prague pretty late, so late that no restaurants were open and serving food. Our dinner that first night? The Burger King near historic Wenceslas Square (confession: we both love Burger King). While it wasn't the introduction to Prague we anticipated, we also learned another lesson during that midnight meal - you can get great, cheap Czech beer at Burger King in Prague.
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