If this is your first trip to Europe, you're not alone! There are a few things that are helpful to know prior to setting out to another country for the first time. If you're traveling with us, you know that the moment your trip starts until it ends, you'll be completely in the care of our incredibly capable guides.
A few helpful hints could make your first moments on foreign soil just a wee less stressful and help you get to your destination without learning everything the hard way. Thank you to those who have had these experiences and shared them with us!
- Be safe, but don't be scared. Be cautious with your belongings; don't give thieves the opportunity to snag your wallet from a back pocket or walk off with an unattended bag. Leave all of your nice jewelry at home. Often people buy travel wedding bands that are a fraction of the cost of the real ones. Simply being attentive and having personal possessions off-limits to wandering hands will typically be all that it takes to stay safe. Follow common sense about safety, in general. The gypseys aren't going to get you.
- Many train tickets need to be validated before you board a train. Look for yellow boxes around the station and near the tracks where the ticket can be stamped. A ticket for a specific seat on a specific train doesn't have to be validated. If the box doesn't stamp the date and time on the ticket, find someone who works for the train and have that person write on the ticket.
- When boarding a train, notice if you have a first or second class stamped on it. 1 = first class, 2 = second. There will be a large number - 1 or 2 on the side of each car of the train. Be sure to get on the train with the correct number designated.
- Anytime you are trying to use an ATM, ticket machine, even website, look for the British flag to indicate English...in Europe, English is from England, not the U.S!
- Travel as light as possible. Dragging a heavy suitcase over cobble streets and into trains is far more challenging than you might imagine.
- Cash: be prepared to withdraw cash from the ATM at the airport. It's the easiest way to get euros. The fees are small compared with the hassle of getting cash any other way. Be sure to call your bank and credit cards prior to leaving so they know to expect withdrawals from overseas.
- Before getting in a taxi, ask the driver how much the ride will cost so you don't get taken for a ride of the wrong kind (taxis next to the Rome Termini are known for ridiculous prices).
- Take a nice travel companion language book with you. It's fun to look up words and phrases and at times, it will come in handy with communication. Many people in the big cities speak English, but in the small towns, don't expect it.
- Have no fear: Europeans are very friendly to foreigners and most are very helpful. When you're in a bind, never be afraid to ask questions and look at it as an experience. Often times, this is when unforgettable memories are made!
Are you a seasoned traveler? Do you have anything to add?