For the last few months, I’ve gotten spoiled by my mother, caught up with my friends at a convention, and more or less enjoyed not having to work, deal with bills or cook for myself. However, that’s all over, it’s back to the traveling lifestyle. Last night I flew to London Gatwick, and this morning I flew out with WOW! To Toronto.
This is a tragic lesson in why you should follow your gut when you’re stressed out. I planned to fly from Edinburgh until my Dad talked me into looking at flights from London as they’d be cheaper. They were, but once you include the flight down and the accommodation I needed as the flight was at 11:55 in the morning, there wasn’t much in it. I also had to do a connecting flight in Iceland, whereas the one from Edinburgh would have been direct.
However, despite seeing many bad reviews for WOW, it was actually a pretty comfortable trip. They don’t provide any free food or entertainment (have to pay for everything), but they have a world adaptor plug under every seat so you can use your own. I also brought my own food, so for both flights I was completely covered.
My only issue was when we landed on Reykjavik, it was a bad landing. I’ve never heard such tyre squeal on a plane, and I was almost yanked out of my seat from the speed we had to brake at. It was raining, but that was still an awkward grounding. We were also delayed due to two no shows in London, so there was only ten minutes in between flights instead of an hour.
Despite this though, 11 hours later we landed in Toronto, Canada. My first trip West that didn’t start and end in Florida. With two working holidays under my belt, I thought I’d be out and hunting a way into the city centre easily enough.
Except…not so much. I should have twigged when I was checking in and the WOW! Check in attendant needed to see my Letter of Invitation to get my ETA number. Without it, I wouldn’t have even been able to get on the plane.
First off, you have to go through customs, which is easy enough and pretty standard. They write on the arrival card, and when you’re through, show it to the officer further down who (in the case of visitors) will wave you through, or forward you into Immigration.
This took forever. There was only two women in front of me, but there was also two families who were waiting to be served. As far as I could tell, they only had two people working, and it took anywhere from 6-10 minutes to process each person. When I got to the desk, I discovered much of the problem came from a very slow printer, which added several minutes to the process.
I’d been told that they sometimes check your documents to prove you have followed the guidelines (the right amount in your bank account, enough insurance to cover etc.), but they didn’t ask me for any of it. Instead they just needed my Letter of Invitation, then printed out my work permit and told me to head to the Service Canada section to the right of the Immigration office in order to get my Social Security number. Here, I had to take a small form, fill it out and wait for my number to get called. Again, only two people working, and at least 15-20 minutes before I got served. Thankfully, it only took about 5 minutes once I was at the desk to get the printout that I needed.
All in all, I was near the front of the queue and probably had one of the quicker processes compared to the ten or so people behind me, but it still took over an hour for me to get out to the baggage claim area.
Once out, I learned a rather problematic thing about Toronto. It is NOT traveller friendly. There are almost no obvious signs or explanations on what to do. I knew I could get the train into town, but the signs are small and hard to find. It takes several minutes to figure out I had to get up three levels (and had to wait for a tiny lift as I couldn’t find the steps), and when I get there, there’s no ticket machine.
Thankfully, a local helped me and a few other confused travellers. At Toronto the train is free between Terminals and the airport hotel, and you buy tickets (and get on the right train) at the other terminal. It’s $12 for a one way ticket to Union Station, and takes about 25 minutes. I spend my time speaking with the friendly local who helped us out. Her name was Charlotte and she’d just come back from Spain, before picking her brain on how to get to my hostel. I could catch a subway train if I try to figure out the route, but Google Maps promise it’s only a ten minute walk, so I give it a shot.
With my bags it’s closer to 20 minutes, but Toronto is thankfully, fairly easy to navigate. It’s on a grid system, but the roads are so wide and signs are posted everywhere, so it’s hard to get lost. The one issue is how big it is – the map is deceitful when it comes to distance. Eventually though, I make it to Hi-Hostel Toronto on Church Street.
I have no real plans for this evening. It’s been a long day and I’m exhausted. I don’t even bother exploring for a Sim Card. Figure I can get a decent night’s sleep and then explore the city tomorrow.