The consulate approved your visa, you booked your flights, trains, hotels, and tours and you bought a new luggage, new shoes, new outfits, and you are ready to go.
Wait a minute! Are you really ready?
I took a semester in France in 2014. Yes, my purpose of going to France was to study not to travel, but I did a lot of traveling because I had lots of breaks from school.
I traveled the Southern part of France, Amsterdam, Italy, Spain, and Portugal. As I traveled from place to place, different countries, and cities, I have learned a lot of things not just cultures from these places, but also how to go from point A to point B easier.
Here are my personal tips if you are traveling to Europe this summer:
- Pack light. Since almost all European / Schengen countries are accessible by either bus or trains, you would likely to travel by train or bus if you wouldn’t mind being on a train for a couple of hours or longer. If you are like me, who is traveling on a budget, you were more likely to book a hostels/hotels that are less pricey but also a little far from the city center or the train station – that’s the main reason why you need to pack light. But if you’re not on a budget and can certainly afford a cab, or a much closer hotel, then you can pack a little more. When I was traveling, I would walk for 20-30 minutes from the train station to my hotel (google map is very useful for finding out how many minutes you can go from point A to point B either by a cab, train, or by walking). Can you imagine dragging a huge suitcase for 30 minutes on a cobblestone paved road? I will tell you, it wasn’t easy.
- Make a list of the landmarks you want to see and things you want to do. Now, this is tricky. I don’t even know why I am giving this as a tip when I am a traveler who doesn’t really like just to sight-see. Anyway, the whole of this is that so you can map where all of these places. I know, you probably booked the tours already, but there are some landmarks or places that you don’t really to book a tour or a tour guide – like the Trevi Fountain (I actually just passed it on the way to my hotel from the train station). Hotels (especially in Europe) have tour maps, and you would want to get those. In the map, you will see all the landmarks – even those ones that aren’t popular. Using a pen mark the places you wrote on your list. The map will give you an idea on how far each landmark from each other, there you can group them together so you wouldn’t need to go back to the same vicinity when you realized the other landmark is just close to the other one you just saw yesterday. I am telling you these because when I traveled outside France for the first time, I didn’t know any better. I didn’t take advantage of google maps, or even the maps from the hotels. But hey, I enjoyed my first travel experience – I didn’t sight-see much, but I learned a lot during that trip.
- Buy a voltage converter. It’s because the American appliances run on 110 volts, while European appliances 220 volts. But if your home country’s appliances run on 220 volts, you wouldn’t need this. Also, most gadgets nowadays are “dual voltage” which means they work in both American and European current. Before you go check the prints on your gadgets or its plugs for a range of voltages. If you find 110-220 range of voltages printed on your gadgets, you should be fine without the converter.
- Buy spare batteries for your camera. Ok, you probably won’t need spare batteries. But if you were like me (frustrated photographer), and you tend to take hundreds of pictures of ONE specific scenery, then your one battery won’t last a day. Can you imagine seeing this beautiful sunset, but your camera is dead, and you can’t take pictures of it? Take my advice, and buy spare batteries – even if you don’t take pictures like I do because some hotels only have one power outlet.
- Wear comfy shoes. Preferably shoes that are meant for walking. I loved my flat shoes (doll shoes) because it’s very fashionable, and it goes well with my outfits, but I learned my lesson after an almost 12-hour walk in Rome. I thought my legs will break, and that my soles have holes in it. So buy yourself great walking shoes, because you will need it.
- Bring some medication with you. Medications like Advil and anti-diarrhea are going to be your great companion. First of all, if you walked for miles and miles ( and it was your first time), at the end of the day you will need an Advil, for either sore muscles or a headache. Believe me, I almost consumed the whole bottle of Advil when I was traveling. Anti-diarrhea is a must. You are in a different country. Their food is yummy but also can cause an upset tummy. It doesn’t hurt to be prepared, right?
- Don’t be shy asking for directions. We all been there – lost. We all got lost and can’t find our way, but we don’t really want to ask anyone because it’s either we are shy, or we can’t speak their language and we are hesitating to ask in English but we are not sure if the person we are going to ask to understand English or get offended by asking in English. Here’s a tip, sometimes starting your question with a hello in their language goes a long way. Also, you don’t have to be shy to ask for directions, Europeans are nice and kind. I remember when I was in Italy, I don’t really have a specific destination per se. I was just walking, and then I passed by an interesting chapel, so I tried to look at the map what it is – if it’s even there. Then a guy asked if I was lost and needed help. It actually made my day.
- Be at the train station 10-15 minutes prior to your departure. It might sound crazy. I know we wouldn’t want to wait at the train station that long, but it is better to wait at the train station then wait in your hotel. Anything can happen on your way to the train station, and you might miss your train. The truth is, in my experience of many train rides in Europe, there was only one time that the train arrived 10 minutes late. Their trains were never late. So make sure to be at the train station ahead of time. But if you don’t want to be hassled by the time, you can actually just go to the train station when you want to and buy the ticket once you get there (expect the long lines though). Or you could book a flexible ticket, which allows you to leave anytime that day.
That’s all I could think of for now. I promise I would add more into it when I come back from our trip next Month. I hope these tips help you in your future European tour.
– LOVE, ROSEMARIE –