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10 Europe traveling tips

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Joined: 23 Sep 2006
Posts: 343
Location: Prague/Worldwide

PostPosted: Fri May 22, 2009 3:48 am    Post subject: 10 Europe traveling tips Reply with quote

Hi! Smile

Posted this on the General Europe forum pages and thought this might be useful also on this section of the forum, for newbies coming to Europe for summer travel. Pls feel free to correct or add information.

Some of the following tips might seem a little obvious to some of you and others might not. This list is designed to help those of you who might be traveling overseas for the first time.

1. It's the smart traveler who scans a copy of their documents, such as flight ticket and passport, and who stores this information in their email account. I also recommend keeping a separate copy in hard form. If your documents are stolen or lost then having these copies will speed up the process of obtaining official new documents. Also, some European countries expect you to have your ID on you at all times and many hostels and hotels won't admit you entrance if you don't have sufficient identification. If you are in a real pickle and you have all funds and ID go missing then there is always somebody who will let you use their computer and printer for you to retrieve your copies.

2. Travel light!
Ideally you should be looking at having just the 1 bag. Even if you are coming specifically to take your TEFL course we still recommend bringing just the 1 bag with you. These days in almost every European country you can find the same general goods and products as you can back in N.America or Australia. If you are placing your bag in the hold on the plane then make sure it is a water resistant bag, that there are no valuables inside and that your bag is easily identifiable for a quick exit from the luggage carousel.

3. The first 48 hours are the most critical when traveling to a new location. You would usually expect to feel disorientated from the flight and also confused with having a new currency in your pocket. What makes things worse is that airports are usually much more expensive than downtown locations and this only adds to confusion regarding how much you can do with the new money in your pocket. Airports are sometimes frequented by people who prey on new arrivals so your first priority will be to get downtown and to a prearranged hotel or hostel. Before leaving home go online and book a hotel or hostel in advance. If you are planning a big European trip then why not spend the first night or two in Europe comfortably. Book a decent hotel or hostel and arrange for that hotel or hostel to come wait for you at the airport.

4. Familiarize yourself with the local laws of the countries you will be visiting. Just like many US States have varying local laws, Europe is also a very diverse land and what is legal in one country can hold very serious penalties in another. So if you arrive in Amsterdam and then plan to head to the Greek islands or to Istanbul then make sure to clean out your pockets and bag before making that trip. Also, some countries have relaxed drinking laws while others will issue on the spot fines for seemingly minor drinking-related offenses.
Remember that if you do find yourself in trouble then your embassy will be of very little help to you. They are binded by the local laws of each country where they have embassy privileges and the most they can usually do is to arrange for a call home or money transfer and they will more than likely charge you for both these services.
Should you find yourself arrested then they can also arrange a legal representative for you, which is either paid for by the state or by you yourself.

5. When in Rome, do as the Romans do.
Each European country has its own social customs and quirks.
Always try and fit in as much as possible and just go with the flow.
As an example, it is considered rude to enter a house or flat and to leave your shoes on. It's also considered polite to walk on the right side of public steps and escalators. Oh, and when you enter a shop you should take the trolley or basket or expect to be followed round the store by the undercover shop security Smile

6. Eat local food!
You didn't come to Europe to eat fast food.
The likes of McDonalds are comfort zones in sometimes hectic surroundings and I must admit to being a McDonalds breakfast addict - hey, they have great coffee and their egg and cheese muffins rock. Still though, when it comes to lunch or dinner I recommend heading out of the center of town and eating where the locals eat. In Rome for example you can expect to pay anywhere between 3 - 30 Euro for just 1 slice of mediocre pizza in the center but head out to the suburbs and you will be paying significantly less and for authentic Italian cuisine, cooked by someone who cares more about the quality of the food than the quantity. Likewise in Athens you should be looking to get your gyros and Moussaka away from Syntagma Square. In Paris, anything bought within zone 1 will require a second mortgage.
Eating where locals eat will also bring you into contact with the local people.
Central Prague for example has a huge amount of restaurants offering the daily menu and a full meal will cost you less than 5 USD. However, if you eat where the tourists do then this figure can easily multiply by 2,3 or 4x.

7. Getting around.
It's probably a good idea to combine different forms of transport so you don't become a victim of transport rage Smile
Before buying that cheap Moscow-Vladivostock train ticket, go online and check how long the route is. 5 days on a wooden seat is enough to ruffle anyone's feathers. I once bought a train ticket from Prague to Bucharest and got so sick of the train journey that I got out at a smallish town called Brasov. After 1 day on the train I had had enough! Luckily Brasov is a wonderful place and visiting 'Dracula's castle' is highly recommended - get there before the theme park does!
Over recent years many discount airlines have been springing up throughout Europe and it really makes sense to cut a long journey short by hopping on a plane. My recommendation is
Interail train tickets are useful but unless you plan on a lot of overland travel they tend to be busy and there is usually additional fees to pay for certain trains.
Hitching is an option in Europe although you should be aware of the potential risks involved. Women should never hitch alone. I have hitched throughout Europe and my fondest memories are when I was in France and the hospitality with which I was shown there. If you do choose to hitch then having your destination written on a piece of cardboard will make it easier for you and the driver. The universal sign for hitching in Europe is to stick out your thumb. Garages are recommended places to 'thumb a lift' as this is where many truck drivers stop and it means that you get a chance to chat with the driver before agreeing to spend time on the road with them.

8. Money.
For security and peace of mind I recommend just taking a debit or credit card and back up card in case your primary card goes missing. Travelers checks were once the preferred method of taking money on the road but these days they are difficult to change up and usually mean paying transaction fees and often for a bad exchange rate. Having your card means being able to withdraw directly from ATM's and if your card does go missing then you have your bank's contact already on you or in your email account. Tell your bank beforehand where you will be traveling to and make sure that your card has a weekly limit so that in the worst case scenario you won't lose too much if you are a victim of fraud.

9. Travel insurance is essential and you should shop around for the best deal. Make sure that your cover includes repatriation cover in case of an emergency. Also, read the small print!!!

10. If everything goes wrong.
ok, so you have been unfortunate and all your belongings have been stolen and you find yourself without any money at all.
First thing is to get yourself to a computer and print out your documentation. If possible, also take this opportunity to contact home and ask family or friends to send a Western Union transfer to you. Then, head to a police station and make an official report. If you can't arrange for the funds to be sent over then make your way to your nearest embassy. If your nearest embassy is really far then you will need to hitch. If you really can't face hitching then get on a train and approach the train guard and ask for them to write you a ticket which you will then pay at a later date. In most countries the guard will do this for you but it is important that you approach the guard before he or she arrives at you to request your ticket. If you are hungry then approach a church - a church will never turn you away without feeding you up first. Once you have reached the city where your embassy is then you can check into a hotel or hostel and wait for the funds to come through.
What is important to know is that most cases of theft occur either at train or bus stations or on the public transport systems of the larger European cities. Outside the larger cities and the crime rates fall significantly. Europe is generally a very secure continent to travel within and with the usual precautions you can make your trip a hassle-free one.

Neville Smile

ITTP Prague
Jungmannova 32
Prague 1
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Joined: 03 May 2008
Posts: 36
Location: Long Island, New York, USA

PostPosted: Mon Jul 27, 2009 12:04 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

thanks for the overview Very Happy
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Joined: 25 Jun 2008
Posts: 878
Location: All over the place

PostPosted: Thu Sep 24, 2009 5:22 pm    Post subject: Eastern Europe Reply with quote

Your biggest worry in Central Europe is getting things stolen. Cash, cards, passport, phone........don't let them out of your sight and be careful on trams, the pickpockets work in groups and there's always one to distract you. I've lived in the Czech and Poland on and off for years...never heard of a mugging or violent's subtle robbery and ripping you off with bills and change etc.
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Joined: 26 May 2010
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PostPosted: Tue Jun 01, 2010 12:47 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

good stuff
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Joined: 23 Mar 2009
Posts: 21
Location: Melbourne Australia

PostPosted: Sun Jun 13, 2010 1:39 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Excellent information. Thanks for the tips and advice. Cheers
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Joined: 12 Aug 2010
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 29, 2010 6:25 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

very good stuff.thanks! Smile
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Joined: 22 Oct 2010
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PostPosted: Sat Nov 06, 2010 11:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks Jacetheace.
Let the good times roll!
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