Plane to pavement: Why you should ditch the airport cab and walk instead

Keep walking: A passenger just arrived at Nice-Côte d’Azur airport in southern France, an hour’s walk from the city centre (Simon Calder)
Keep walking: A passenger just arrived at Nice-Côte d’Azur airport in southern France, an hour’s walk from the city centre (Simon Calder)

My social media search for extreme meanness when travelling came about while I was in transit at Doha airport. The Qatari hub has almost universally dreadful wifi, and the only decent coverage you get is at Starbucks through the coffee chain’s own system (you also get an excellent view of the airfield).

I needed just 10 minutes of decent connectivity and I toyed momentarily with the idea of just perching at a table without buying anything. Fortunately I treated myself to a large, tasty latte (20 riyals, under £5) along with the megabytes. But it made me wonder what other travellers get up to.

Even I shuddered to learn of some of the money-saving tricks, from daring to tip 1 per cent at a New York City restaurant to over-haggling in Delhi in order to save 3p.

Yet among the two-dozen or more responses to my request for acts of travel parsimony, I sympathised with those related to airports.

Someone tweeting as Angry Maths Teacher reports: “I tipped 0 per cent at Chicago O’Hare airport for Garrett Popcorn because tipping someone 20 per cent to put popcorn in a bag is insane.”

I was also taken with the efforts travellers make to avoid high-priced airport fares. Steve M urged: “Avoid the ridiculous $8 [£6.60] AirTrain fee at New York JFK by taking the Subway A train to Ozone Park-Lefferts Boulevard and the Q10 bus along Lefferts Boulevard to the (free) AirTrain station of the same name. Voila, that’s a free pint!”

And Matthew Hisbent gives the taxi drivers at Corfu airport a wide berth. “I always walk into Corfu Town via the stadium route,” he reports.

Walking to and from airports is something that should be encouraged. Agreed, it is usually impractical and sometimes impossible: there is no legal way to reach Heathrow Terminals 2 and 3 on two feet. But let us celebrate the European airports where the city centre is only a stroll away.

Of major continental airports, Pisa is probably the easiest. Just head into town on the Via Asmara. Centrale rail station is just half an hour away, with the tower leaning prettily about 15 minutes further. Plenty of places to pause and replenish, too.

Nice-Côte d’Azur, the main hub for southern France, is significantly further out from the centre. But where the airport perimeter ends, the Promenade des Anglais begins and your hour’s walk is flanked by the Mediterranean.

An hour of your time can also be well spent threading through the suburbs of Geneva from the airport to the lake; the previous option of picking up a free transport ticket in the arrivals hall has now ended. As is often the case with walks from airports, the tricky part is untangling yourself from the complex and pedestrian-unfriendly road system.

In Tallinn, the barrier is crossing the highway to Tartu. But once this is successfully scaled, the reward is a lakeside ramble for the first kilometre before tussling with a streetscape partly bequeathed by the Soviet Union.

What of home turf? Clearly none of the London airports is plausibly walkable from Trafalgar Square, and major terminals in the regions and UK nations are all awkwardly distant from the cities they serve. But I shall award half a point to Glasgow airport for its proximity to Paisley, a handsome town just 30 minutes on foot – with excellent rail links to Scotland’s largest city in one direction and Ayr in the other.

And who among us does not habitually avoid the punitive airport tram surcharge in Edinburgh by walking (in 10 brisk minutes) from the terminal to Ingliston Park & Ride? The fare falls by 72 per cent from £6.50 – valuing your time at £28 per hour. Wait – is it only me who does this?