General Travel Tips
General Travel Tips for the Inexperienced Traveller
- Travel in the off-season or during the end of the high season. I have gone to Europe in June and October several times. I love that time of year, especially October. The high season is winding down, there are fewer of your fellow tourists, the weather is cooler and you can still see all the great sights.
- If going during high-season, consider a “skip the line” pass. I have bought one for the Vatican, Colosseum, the Louvre and others. You get to skip the line, do not have to wait hours in line (yes in high-season it will be hours) and get a tour guide. You can also remain after the tour to look around on your own.
- You should try to learn the language of the country you are visiting. If you cannot learn the whole thing (which can be time-consuming and understandable), make sure to learn the basics and phrases you will need. You should know: hello, thank you, how much is this, where is the toilet, how far to my hotel, more wine please and so on. Be thoughtful and the people will adore you for trying.
- Join a free walking tour. I stumbled upon one in Munich and had a fantastic time. You can find these in most major cities in Europe.
- The most important tip in hotel selection: LOCATION! Research the area to make sure you are not miles from the metro or too far from the city centre where most of the sights may be. Google maps is really your best friend in this case. I find staying in the wrong location can negatively affect your trip. You don’t want to be spending half your day on the train or metro.
- Pack light! This is one tip I have trouble following. I always take a suitcase with me and yes, I check it. I have been damn lucky so far; never lost my luggage. Fingers crossed! Do I regret taking so much stuff with me each trip? Hell yes, but I always manage. My last two trips I have taken my smaller suitcase and managed fine. So yes you can do it.
- Make sure you do your research – some places require reservations. An example: to view Michelangelo’s David in Florence, you need a reservation in advance. You can book this online.
- I recommend spending more time in each city. Don’t try to see Europe in two weeks. You will be exhausted. I find three nights minimum in each city is the way to go. That way you are not rushed between days. You can return and you should to see the rest of Europe. I did a tour of Germany where I stayed in a couple of places only two nights and I felt too rushed. You really only one full day in that city plus whatever time you have the day you arrived so maybe a day and a half then you’re off. Too rushed!
- Eurail passes are awesome! I did that for my German trip and it was worth the money. Just research the cost of individual rides to make sure it is worth your money, but it is an easy and convenient way of travelling around Europe! There are many types of passes so lots of flexibility! You can buy these in advance of your trip. Check out Seat 61 for more European rail information.
- Buy comfortable walking shoes. If you don’t, you will suffer. I have great memories of my first trip overseas to London BUT I had crappy shoes, ended up with blisters after the second day so the rest of my time was very painful.
- Wear a moneybelt. Safety first people!
- If you don’t wear a moneybelt (umm I don’t), wear a bag across your body. I have a small bag (mini-purse) since I don’t like carrying a backpack that I hold in front of me. I basically keep my hand on it whenever anyone is nearby or in large crowds or the metro. If you carry a backpack, safest way is to carry it in front of you.
- Be careful of scams, petitions or gypsies/street folk selling stuff. Most likely it is a scam so don’t engage them AT ALL. Walk away, tell them to leave you alone, you are not interested and so on. Rome and Athens were horrible for all that: they would not leave me alone. It got to the point where I was NOT polite anymore. They don’t care.
- Notify your credit card companies before you head off so they don’t flag your card. I had my card flagged when I wasn’t even travelling: I was booking a flight on the Russian airline Aeroflot. So let them know in advance so your charges are approved.
- Check with your bank: most charge extra for European withdrawals and sometimes charge extra for the currency conversion.