Traveling can be a great pleasure and there are so many interesting places to see in the world. Europe is one of my favorite destinations as every region, let alone country, is so diverse.
If you are off to Europe for the first time you might be a bit nervous about different languages, customs and what is accepted behavior.
Here are 20 travel tips to help you smooth your way.
1. Get travel medical insurance. If for any reason you would need to use medical facilities without insurance it could cost you an arm and a leg. This money is more than well spent even if you never use it.
2. Before you leave scan all your documents (passport, drivers licence, travel insurance) and e-mail these to yourself. If you lose any of them you will be able to go into your e-mail and get the vital information you need to replace them.
3. If you are taking your cell phone make sure that you have a travel plan so you will not be dinged with outrageous roaming fees.
4. Have contact numbers for the embassies in the countries you are traveling through. Chances are that you will never need them but you will feel safer if you have them.
5. There are many different types of place to stay depending on what country you are in. While most North Americans think of hostels as student accommodation, there are family oriented ones as well. You could also rent an apartment or stay at a Bed and Breakfast. Ask friends and family for recommendations and scour the internet.
6. Carry your passport with you, preferably in a hidden pocket on your person. There are some museums that you will have to show your passport before you are allowed to enter.
7. Start planning your packing 2 weeks before. Check websites to see what the weather is usually like and plan accordingly.
8. The old adage to pack half the clothes you need and take twice the money is good but I always advocate, especially if you are traveling during hot weather, take twice as much underwear as you would need. If you are out during the heat of the day you will probably go back to your hotel to shower before heading out for the night.
9. Learn common phrases in the language that you need such as, Hello, Thank You, How Much, Where is the toilet, and learn how to count. While English is spoken throughout Europe do no assume that everyone you will be dealing with will speak it. Even if you make the slightest effort to speak their language they will appreciate it.
10. Find out where the local markets are. There are flea markets in the larger cities where you can buy everything from t-shirts to antiques. Do not be afraid to haggle at flea markets, it is expected. Specialty markets like the flower or farmers markets are beautiful, interesting and free to visit.
11.Find out where the food stores are near to your hotel. There will be times that you might not want a full lunch or dinner if you had had a big meal earlier that day. Having some crackers, fruit and drinks available will help you keep your food budget and waistline in check.
12. Even though you are on vacation this is not the time to let your guard down. You have to practice the same safety measures as you would at home. Don't walk down unlit streets beware of sketchy characters. Unfortunately tourists are often targeted by thieves. Wherever you are traveling to check websites to see if there are warnings about pick pockets or other crimes.
13. DO NOT travel with a fanny pack. This marks you as a target. Thieves will follow you and wait until you are on unsure footing such as a escalator or stairs and knock you down and cut off your fanny pack.
14. Use the public transit. This will save you a great deal of money and in most larger centers is fast and efficient. It is also a great way to see the city. The Vaporetto (water bus) in Venice is an amazing way to see the city by water both during the day and night.
15. Dress well. No ratty t-shirts, sloppy shoes, ripped jeans etc. Europeans dress better than North Americans and you will be judged by what you wear. This does not mean that you have to show up in high fashion but as a woman if you are wearing a pretty dress and as a man if you are wearing a golf shirt and slacks, you will get better service at restaurants and from sales staff.
16. Check to see the cost and wait times for attractions you would like to visit. It might make sense to pre-book your tickets from North America, you can get better deals and specific times to visit. Depending on what country you are traveling to museums might be closed one day mid-week.
17. Hop on Hop off buses can be a great deal. They run in almost every major city through out Europe. The best part about them is that most of the time you have front of the line privileges. So if you decide to hop off to see an attraction the ticket that you buy from the Hop On Hop Off driver will let you bypass lineups that can be hours long and head straight in.
18. Don't waste your time trying to find chain restaurants that you are familiar with (McDonald's, Burger King etc.) They are out there but they will be much more expensive than local small restaurants that serve delicious food. You are in Europe to experience new things!
19. Smile. People want to deal with other people that are pleasant. You will get more information, nicer service and it will make the day more enjoyable for everyone.
20. Learn to relax and take changes of plan in stride. We once got stuck in Italy during a general transit strike, since we had wanted to spend the day in Ravenna but couldn't get there we spent the day in Bologna and took a tour of the oldest university in the world, marveled the anatomy lecture hall and found the most amazing stationery store.
Another time we landed in Zurich Switzerland during Zurifest and the Fifa World Cup. The normally quiet docile Swiss were letting their hair down and since the stores were closed on Sunday we joined the locals in the parks were they were showing the soccer games on giant screens. While not what we had planned to do both of these days turned out to be wonderfully memorable.
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Copyright Ingrid Talpak 2012