An old friend recently contacted me, and asked if I had any advice to offer for his upcoming European trip. I’ll share some of that advice here, in the hopes that it might help some of you.
- It’s ok if you don’t speak the language. If you are polite and smile, you’ll be able to get by with only speaking English. If English isn’t working, pointing and finger counting are helpful. Talking louder and more slowly are not.
- Don’t bring guide/travel books. Any common tourist spot (train station, tourist stand, etc) will have plenty of free guides and maps highlighting the major attractions. Also, those free guides usually have good coupons. A quick stop at the ‘Tourist Info’ desk at the train station can go a long way.
- Don’t bring cash or traveler’s checks. With either of those, you’ll have to convert your money at one of many ‘Currency Exchange’ stands. The fees at those places are ridiculous (way more than credit card or ATM fees).
- Do bring a credit card and ATM card. Visa is widely accepted, and there are ATM machines in case you need cash. Check with your credit card and debit card companies to see what fees apply to European charges/withdrawals. Capital One Visa cards are great because they don’t charge any fees. If you do withdraw cash from an ATM, try to only withdraw what you think you’ll spend. Otherwise, at the end of your trip, you’ll have to exchange that money at one of the previously mentioned ‘Currency Exchange’ stands. That being said, be sure to withdraw enough, because repeat ATM fees are no fun. Bank of America has a ‘Global Aliance’ which allows BofA customers to withdraw cash free of charge from any of it’s member banks.
- Not every country in Europe uses the Euro (notably: United Kingdom, Switzerland, Czech Republic, Hungary). If you are planning a multi-country trip that includes one of those places, any left-over money won’t be much good from one place to the next.
- We booked many of our hotel accommodations using www.booking.com. I definitely recommend them.
If you’ve got travel tips of your own, please leave them in the comments below.