Where do you stay in Europe? The choice is yours. If traveling alone or with friends and depending on your finances one can stay at luxurious hotels and beach resorts. If traveling with children you will want to find family friendly hotels, inns or low-key beach resorts, or even consider a rental especially if you’re going to be staying in one particular place for a while. Look for places listed as Holiday Rentals or Vacation Rentals by Owner you’d be surprised what you find and how in most areas the price is reasonable considering it’s a homey atmosphere.
When traveling alone you might want to consider hostels or pension’s here you will meet other people just like you and make some new friends. Now if you are looking for romance you might think about a B&B or Guest House; in these you get bed and breakfast in your own private rooms, which, of course, is much more of a home atmosphere and no rushing out to have your room cleaned and beds made. There are those who do not want to go too far from transportation areas, and then look for hotels near the bus and train stations they tend to be much cheaper, but look out they might not be so inviting. It’s always a good idea to find out if breakfast is included with your room. There are places you can search on your own some are: Hotels.com, Expedia.com, Hotelclub.net, Booking.com, Laterooms.com and Hotel.info.com. Make sure that during the summer season or special events you book ahead of time.
Ask about discount cards; they have them for seniors, students and youth cards. When I was in Perugia I had a Student Discount Card believe me it was great I was able to get a meal for 5 lira, I mean 25¢ and this was a three course meal. For students there is a card called the International Student Travel Confederation you can research it at www.istc.org this card is good for students up to 25 years. And for those under 30 years there is the European Youth Card, at www.euro26.org.
Planning to bring your own blow dryer, iron, shaver etc. Anything electrical remember in Europe their wattage is different and higher than ours in the States. Make sure you buy converters, plug converters, and get a package that has different types of converters because each country has plugins the shape of the prongs and sockets are different. My first time in Italy I forgot the converter and my blow dryer burned up. I needed to go out and buy a new one and I ended up bringing home a European blow dryer that I was unable to use in the States.
Make sure that if you are on any medications you bring them along in their original prescription bottle and an extra written prescription from you doctor just in case you run out or lose them. Always, keep copies of your prescriptions somewhere safe. Make sure that you have a written letter signed and dated from your doctor for any special treatments you may need. As far as, syringes and needles they must be accompanied by a doctor’s letter stating why you have them and for what use. Example: When my Mom traveled to Italy, she was diabetic, she took along with her, her insulin and syringes with a letter stating the dosage amount and why she needed it along with a new prescription if she needed to get more.
You do not need to be vaccinated for Western Europe but the WHO recommends that everyone should be immunized for measles, mumps, rubella, tetanus, polio and diphtheria. I had a friend that caught diphtheria in one of the not so civilized countries and eventually died. So, depending on where you travel, make sure you are vaccinated for certain diseases. Investigate first before planning your trip and find out what types of clothing and coverage you need to stay safe. Make sure you have insurance coverage; some European countries will take care of you even if you don’t have insurance you will have to find out which ones those are. If you have health insurance check to see if they cover you in Europe.
Gay and Lesbian Travelers – In Western Europe you will find very liberal attitudes towards homosexuality. Spain, Belgium and the Netherlands have legalized same-sex marriages. Some other countries allow civil partnerships. When looking for gay communities with plenty of events go to the Greek Islands of Mykonos and Lesvos. which have popular gay beaches. Paris, Berlin, Amsterdam, Lisbon, London and Madrid all have gay communities. There is an American publisher which offers guides to world cities for gays just go to “www.damron.com”.
The internet there are cafes which offer internet service and Wi-Fi but there might be a surcharge for the use. Alcohol, mostly beer and wine, can be purchased at the age of 16 and 18 but you need to be at least 18 to buy whisky, hard liquor or spirits as they call it.
Always carry your identity with you when you travel you never know when you will be asked to show proof of who you are. If you’re a US citizen carry your passport with you, if you’re an EU citizen carry your identity card.
Now you do not want to be taking a risk with narcotics in Europe, even though, they may be available. You can find cannabis aka marijuana sold in some cafes but that’s only because sometimes, depending on the mood of the police they look the other way. I wouldn’t take the chance. For example: In Belgium you can possess 5g of cannabis but you cannot sell it. The Netherlands is very liberal about them selling it to you but you cannot sell it to anyone. Whatever you do don’t get caught, prison time in these countries is very different than prison time here in the States.
Make sure that you carry your credit cards, debit cards, ATM card and cash. You always want to have different sources of money with you. In Europe we all know that they use the Euro as their common currency. The countries that use the Euro are: AUSTRIA, BELGIUM, CYPRUS, FINLAND, FRANCE, GERMANY, GREECE, IRELAND, ITALY, LUXEMBOURG, MALTA, THE NETHERLANDS, PORTUGAL, SLOVAKIA, SLOVENIA AND SPAIN. The following countries do not use the Euro they are: DENMARK, BRITAIN, SWITZERLAND AND SWEDEN.
The euro is divided into 100 cents; there are seven euro notes and eight euro coins. One side of the euro is the standard euro coin and the other side of it has the emblem of the country it represents.
Exchanging money depending on where you travel, if you go to Scots and Welsh their pounds are not exchangeable anywhere but the United Kingdom. The United States dollar and the United Kingdom pounds are easier to exchange in Western Europe. There are post offices that perform banking I know that in Italy you can go to the post office for your banking needs. Banks, of course, do exchanges but their rates and commission are much higher. Ah, the good ole travelers checks once used by everyone, now-a-days it’s hard to find where you can cash them, you’re best bet would be to use an ATM card. Remember to copy or scan your important documents and keep them somewhere safe even in your email just in the event they get lost or stolen you can always retrieve the information needed. When in Europe and you want to communicate with people at home don’t use the hotel phone, use your cell if you can and have coverage in Europe make sure you check for roaming rates, or else just buy a prepaid phone or SIM card. The best way would be to use Skype.
Always check the tourist offices of each country you visit. These offices are full of information on sights to see, museums, maps and any particular information you might need.
Let’s not forget the weights and measure system we all know that in the other side of the world they use the metric system, we here in the States and in England use inches, pounds and pints etc.
You need an airplane to get there but you can always take a cruise ship if you don’t mind being on a ship for at least two weeks to get to Europe, it is your choice. Once there traveling is just like here, cabs, buses, trains, cars, bikes, boats. For the car, boat and motorcycle you will need a license. It is a good idea to get yourself an International Driver’s License, I did and it sure took the headache out of everything. I was able to rent a car and drive away.
Make sure you know the weather conditions of each country you want to visit and dress appropriately bring the right apparels for the right temperatures.
Have a wonderful trip and enjoy the pleasures and sights and the new friends you’ll make for life. Making new friends in another country gives you the excuse to visit again. Bon Voyage.
Introduction photo on top courtesy of MR LIGHTMAN at freedigitalphotos.net