Europe Travel

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

European Travel Tips

7 Travel Tips before visit Europe...

Bring Earplugs
Europe is crowded. Europe is noisy. Unless you’re always in the countryside, bring earplugs for sleeping. (They’re also great for blocking out the screaming child in the train seat directly behind you. Just be sure you don’t miss the announcement for your stop.) Even in hotels in small towns, it can be surprisingly noisy. If you have any problems sleeping, bring those earplugs.
Cell Phones
Europe is far ahead of the U.S. in cellular (“mobile”) coverage and technology. If you have an “unlocked” tri-band or quad-band GSM phone (ask your carrier) you can exchange the phone’s SIM chip for one for the country you’re visiting. If you’re visiting several countries, there are “international roaming” chips available. Check rates and dialing procedures of those multi-national chips carefully. If you are staying in only one or two countries, it may be cheaper to buy that country’s chip instead of an international roaming chip. Cell phones are great for reserving lodging at your next destination.
Learn 20 Words and Phrases
Even though many people in western Europe speak some English, it’s helpful and courteous to be able to speak at least a few words in your host country’s language. Learn “thank you,” “please,” and other daily niceties, as well as “how much,” “where is,” and a few other finding-your-way-around phrases. In eastern Europe, many people speak and understand a fair degree of German. In western Europe, French is also widely understood in many countries.
Don’t Always Assume That Public Transportation is Better Than Renting a Car
We’ve mostly traveled by public transportation in Europe. Be aware, though, that subways/metro/city bus lines will probably operate differently in every place you’ll visit. (Hot tip: Don’t throw away your tube/metro/tram ticket until you’re sure you won’t need it to exit the station.) Trains may be less frequent than you’d desire; or you may not like spending two hours on a bus when you could get there in 45 minutes by car. Taxis, especially shared with a couple of traveling companions, may be a viable cost-effective alternative. In general regarding transportation, we suggest booking air or car rentals in advance, and everything else (unless you’re on a tight schedule) when you arrive (except in the busy summer season – then, reserve everything ahead, especially train reservations).
See the Small Towns and the Countryside
It’s easy to get “museum and castle overload” in the great cities of Europe. Spend some time away from the metro areas, and you’ll see the real country you’re visiting. People are friendlier, the pace is slower, things are quieter, the food and lodging will be cheaper, and you’ll feel like you’re really seeing the country.
Money, ATMs and the Euro
Almost every American knows about the Euro (€). It was originally meant to be roughly 1-to-1 Euro-Dollar, but has fluctuated widely recently. Just be aware that as the Euro rises, your purchasing power decreases on an already expensive continent. Nearly all of western Europe (except Great Britain) is on the Euro, and much of eastern Europe is adopting it. ATMs are easily found in all European cities, but may be harder to find in small towns and in the countryside. Most European establishments take Visa and MasterCard (Visa especially); fewer take American Express. We suggest carrying €100-200 (plus $50-100 worth of local currency if you're outside the Euro zone), and using your credit cards for purchases whenever possible.
Guidebooks are Useful, But Not Infallible
We generally like travel guidebooks for trip planning and getting a feel for a general area. With the advent of the internet, we’ve had much better luck finding lodging and transportation online than from any guidebook recommendation. Also take guidebook recommendations about attractions with a large grain of salt. We’ve been disappointed with several “must see” recommendations in travel guides. Obtain and carry a good local map, especially when navigating the bigger cities.


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