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Why is Amtrak so Expensive? (or, Why is BoltBus so Cheap?)

I don't have a definitive answer, but recently I was planning a trip to New York, and came across some incredible numbers. Both BoltBus and Amtrak depart from Baltimore Penn Station, and arrive at New York's Penn Station. (The bus stop is a few blocks away from each).

The Amtrak's high-speed Acela takes two hours, fifteen minutes, and costs at least $134.

The BoltBus takes three and a half hours, costing $15.

Both of these are demand-based prices, but the ratio remains effectively the same: for an extra hour of travel time, BoltBus is one-tenth the price of Amtrak. How is this possible?

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Creativity is Endless When Someone Wants Your Money

Anywhere there's a lot of foreign tourists and local unemployment, you'll find them: local people who seem smart and speak English, yet inexplicably have nothing better to do than talk to you.

I hate to paint with a broad brush, because in every country, most of the time, I've also had fantastic experiences with locals who legitimately want to talk to you, practice their English, or make some foreign friends. But it's important to always stay aware of your surroundings, and remember that context is crucial. The stories below -- my own and others' -- are illustrative of the precautions you should take, especially in tourist hubs.

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The Path Less Taken is Getting Pretty Busy

Recently, an old university acquaintance of mine posted a set of pictures from his round-the-world trip to Facebook. The very first one caught my eye -- it was a thatched-roof hut restaurant like you'd see anywhere in the tropics, but this one looked familiar. Sure enough, it was the Topi Inn, in the small village of Padang Bai, Bali, Indonesia. I got my advanced open water SCUBA certification there last year.

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North Korea has 500,000 3G Mobile Phone Users

Of course, they'll still confiscate your mobile phone for the duration of your visit.

I don't have too much trouble believing this recent news report. The 3G network rollout was well under way during my visit in late summer of 2009; my guides had mobile phones "for use in emergency situations." They said that they didn't have coverage out in the countryside yet, but I think that there is now.

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